Oregon’s Willamette Valley is rich with beautiful scenery, sweeping vistas and grape vines dripping with fruit. But the valley has more to offer then just views and vinifera. There are also a handful of amazing places to eat with world class chefs at the helm. These high caliber chefs bring a commitment to sustainability, a zeal for local ingredients and seemingly endless creativity.
One such person is Chef Sunny Jin, executive chef at Jory Restaurant at the Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg. Jin earned his culinary degree from Portland’s Western Culinary Institute where he graduated at the top of his class, receiving the coveted Grand Toque Award. He then traveled to Napa Valley where he completed his his externship (and three additional years) at The French Laundry under the guidance and tutelage of Chefs Thomas Keller and Corey Lee.
After his time in Napa, Jin relocated to Sydney, Australia to work with celebrated chef Tetsuya Wakuda at Tetsuya’s. Upon his return to the states he accepted an offer to work for a season at the world’s top rated restaurant at the time, El Bulli in Catalonia, Spain. During his time abroad he traveled extensively, learning not only about other world cultures, but also about their cuisine. He brings these influences and experience back to Oregon. He recently sat down with 1859 to share his thoughts about Oregon, cuisine and his inspirations:
1859: What made you want to become a Chef?
SJ: I grew up loving to cook. I remember that even in Kindergarten, coming home from school. Instead of watching cartoons, I would watch the Frugal Gourmet or Great Chefs of the World.
Who are a few of your biggest inspirations in the food world and why?
Thomas Keller and Cory Lee were my biggest mentors. Together they taught me kitchen discipline and mental strength.
What brought you back to Oregon?
I always knew that I wanted to come back to Oregon. I fell in love with it during my culinary school years. I really couldn’t imagine a better place to call home.
What is your favorite seasonal ingredient?
I’ve always considered tomato season “Early Christmas.”
Do you make your food with the wines of Oregon in mind?
The greater majority of the dishes I’ve created are developed with Oregon in mind. Our agriculture in the Willamette Valley alone has earned, and deserves to be represented with, as much integrity as every individual farmer and winemaker … In fact, we recently did an eight course dinner paired with wines within a 25 mile radius.
What is something you love about working at Jory and the Allison?
I love the atmosphere when the Chef’s counter is full and people from all walks of life gather together for the first time. Then it happens … everything clicks, pans are gracefully flying everywhere, and the definite rush from a service well accomplished is felt and enjoyed not only by our team, but by our new friends watching our every movement.