2009/05/21

Rising Star: Vindalho's David Anderson

By JENNIFER HEIGL (Special to Super Chef)

Portland’s Iron Chef, David Anderson, has always been very comfortable in the kitchen. Working in restaurants since his teen years, Anderson arrived in Stumptown after high school to pursue his culinary passions. Graduating with honors from the Western Culinary Institute, he quickly stepped into positions at some of the top local restaurants, including Bluehour, Lauro, and Café Azul. Trailblazing at Lauro, owner David Machado began to collaborate with Chef Anderson, and together they developed the concept for Vindalho, with a dining menu featuring ‘modern spice route cuisine’. A trip to India further solidified David’s knowledge of Indian cuisine, and he was quickly promoted to Chef de Cuisine at the neighborhood restaurant.

Vindalho

Stopping in for dinner on a Wednesday evening, Super Chef recently had a chance to sit down with Chef Anderson to discuss his culinary influences, his favorite spices, and what he cooks in his free time.

David Anderson of Vindalho

Super Chef: What are the main differences between traditional Indian fare and your "spice route" cuisine?
David Anderson: The idea of spice route cuisine is the mingling of the two cultures (East and West) through the age of discovery. The dishes at Vindalho are traditional Indian dishes influenced with a Western palate.

Super Chef: How did your trip to India influence your cooking?
David Anderson: Seeing and eating directly at the source gives you flavor memories that last a lifetime. I would say that the greatest thing gained from my time there was self-confidence, and the feeling that I was on the right track.

Super Chef: Who are you favorite chefs?
David Anderson: Locally, I would say Vitaly Paley, Dan Mondock and Cathy Whims. Worldwide - Marco Pierre White, Mario Batali, Paul Bertolli.

Super Chef: What are you hoping to bring to the culinary table as Chef de Cuisine at Vindalho?
David Anderson: Developing and executing an exciting concept and watching it grow.

Super Chef: How do you feel about holding the Portland Iron Chef title?
David Anderson: It’s an honor. [Beneficiary and sponsor] Children’s Relief Nursery is a great operation and it feels good to help them out. Bragging rights are nice too.

Super Chef: Are there particular drinks you like to pair with your dishes?
David Anderson: I'm a big beer fan and that's almost always my preference. I love the challenges of trying to pair a dish with something. I probably never try to pair a dish to a drink unless I'm working on something special, but I do like to try and match a drink to my food.

Super Chef: What are your favorite spices to cook with?
David Anderson: Fenugreek leaves, cumin, coriander and ajwain. Aromatics mostly.

Super Chef: What’s your local go-to restaurant for a great meal?
David Anderson: Nuestra Cocina. My brother, Ray, is the Sous Chef there, so I know I can always get a good meal.

Super Chef: What do you cook on your days off?
David Anderson: Burgers, pasta, roast chicken, simple stuff. I like cooking at home but I don't like to make a production about it.

Super Chef: What are your goals as a chef? Do you aspire to reach celebrity chef status?
David Anderson: Long term, my goals are like most chefs - to have a place of my own. I've never really believed in the celebrity chef, it's nice to be acknowledged in your community and respected by your piers. That to me is good enough.

Super Chef: Plans for expansion of your restaurant collaboration with David? Additional restaurants/cuisines?
David Anderson: [Owner] Dave Machado just opened his third and biggest restaurant so far, that will probably wear him out for a while. We'll see what comes down the pipe. There is always something else to get excited about food wise but it takes a lot of time and money to open a restaurant.

Super Chef: Any plans to pen a book?
David Anderson: I love cookbooks - reading and utilizing them. At this point I don't think I have anything to contribute by writing a book but I hope to be around for a while and have enough material for one someday.

Super Chef: What kind of challenges have you faced as a chef in this dismal economy?
David Anderson: You just have to put your head down and work your way through it. It's distracting to be slower and everybody loses focus, but you have to pay attention and make sure everybody you see is going to come back.

Previous articles:
Rising Star: Bryan Voltaggio's Volt
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