At 10 a.m. on March 1, 2007, restaurateur and culinary culturist Michael Hebberoy ’99 gathered with 15 Reed students on campus at the Paradox Café. After some intense plotting and much coffee, Hebberoy and the students went off to create a 50-seat “illegal restaurant” on campus in just under 50 hours. They took reservations, harvested wild edibles in the Reed canyon, cooked a sumptuous meal, served it up, and netted a substantial profit. The one-night restaurant was part of artist Sam Gould’s “Learning is Fun and Dangerous” project during Reed Arts Week. Following is a review of the evening’s events.
In kitchen #1—located in an off-campus Reed house—the countertops are in chaos but the cooks are serene. Bags of floury artisan bread lean against the cabinets. Sliced peaches slip and slide against the strokes of a wooden spoon. Mustard greens, muddy from that morning’s harvest in the Reed canyon, are rinsed clean, the leaves plucked and tossed into a fluttery pile. “The greens are for the crostini,” says Michael Hebberoy, rumpled and boyish, by all appearances one of the college roommates preparing this meal. “We have goat cheese. Should be nice.”
In nearby houses, three other kitchens are humming. Tonight, these students will serve a five-course meal to a packed house, and charge for it. Two days ago, there was no location. No menu. No tables, no chairs, and no plan to feed people in an illegal restaurant.
Why illegal? To prepare food and charge for it requires a variety of business and health department licenses; to do so without such authorization is illegal. Tonight’s excursion into the restaurateur’s underworld is the brainchild of Hebberoy, whose previous Portland ventures—including the critically acclaimed Family Supper, and restaurants clarklewis and Gotham Building Tavern—caused a sensation among food reviewers. At those establishments, Hebberoy experimented with ideas such as communal seating, hiring a writer-in-residence, and butchering meat in full view of the dining room. Last year, Hebberoy handed over control to his former wife and business partner, and relocated to Seattle.
Read an excerpt from Kill the Restaurant: A Voyeurs Guide to the Culinary Underground.
Hebberoy’s current projects—a mishmash of illegal restaurants, social experiments in feeding communities, and a book-in-progress, Kill the Restaurant—take his previous challenges to the traditional restaurant formula to a new level. Put simply, Hebberoy seeks to revolutionize the economy of food. He brings strangers together at a table and watches what happens as they connect over a meal.
He’s come to Reed Arts Week to see what will happen by hosting what he calls “a different kind of Hum conference.”