A couple’s foray into community building through ancient cooking techniques
written by Joni Kabana photography by Aubrie LeGault
During both of their childhoods, Mona Johnson and Jaret Foster spent a lot of time in the great outdoors growing and eating bountiful food choices. While a natural progression for both of them was ending up working in professional kitchens, they also both shared a dream of creating a more immersive dining experience. In 2009, the couple met and bonded over their love of food, farms, nature and community building while working at Portland Farmers Market, a nonprofit organization that organizes various farmers’ markets. They began to formulate a plan centering on a new way of cooking that would engage and inspire both themselves and their guests. Tournant, their open-fire cooking and events company, was born out of this shared vision.
Tournant’s signature offering is an unparalleled outdoor dining experience using farm-to-fire cooking techniques allowing them to spend time outside in nature creating rustic and delicious seasonal food cooked over the open flames.
Leaping into entrepreneurship posed many significant challenges, especially as they entered into the competitive, slim-margined food and hospitality business. Starting small and growing organically, Tournant was launched in Portland with renowned support for innovative and quirky dining experiences. After first launching Oyster Social, a mobile raw bar service, they began hosting pop-ups and collaborative dinners and events before eventually leasing a kitchen and private dining room in Portland and now in Oregon wine country.
“We really enjoy hosting dinners in locations that provide our guests with a unique and immersive experience that allows them to engage with their surroundings. We love being outside in nature when possible. Cooking over fire means that we can take our mobile fire kitchen to some very special locations, often outdoors or with little to no amenities. We’ve cooked in meadows of wildflowers and desert mesas, on beaches, riverbanks and boats, in vineyards, barns and olive groves, in snow, sleet and rain, under the sun, moon and stars.”
Foster and Johnson believe food and fire both have the power to draw people together via warmth, community, entertainment and nourishment and that these things conjure a primal part of who we are. “It’s a beautiful thing to witness guests slow down and connect with their surroundings, the fire and the cooking process. By the time they come to the table, they already feel invested in the meal and a part of the experience. It’s a transformational process that builds community and allows even strangers to become friends.”
While many of us may harbor a desire to cook over open flames, the process is not simple and is often unreliable. A vital part of Tournant’s business model is to share their craft teaching workshops and sharing the process through demonstrations. “Our greatest wish is that by attending our events, workshops and retreats, or even cooking from our digital cookbooks or following along on our adventures through Instagram, you will be inspired to get outside and connect with nature, to care about the many hands who farm, fish, forage and craft your food, and to enjoy nourishing yourselves and loved ones.”
Connect with fellow guests that love food, fire and nature by attending a dinner or workshop. Find more information at www.tournantpdx.com.