Naomi Pomeroy is a powerhouse. With an enviable career as a restaurateur, tv personality and author, you’d think the James Beard Award-winning chef wouldn’t have much time for herself. But, for Pomeroy, me-time is important. “Typically when I’m working full time my mornings are for me,” says Pomeroy. “I get up early — no matter what. And that’s a quiet time around here. Everyone else in my family sleeps late. I have a cup of coffee and go out onto my porch and just sit.” Pomeroy finds joy in the small moments of her mornings, even preparing her coffee. “The way I brew my coffee is so relaxing: Pouring the water over the coffee grounds, watching the crema bubble through — I just like it. I always have a cup of coffee and I almost always have a piece of toast. It’s just the way I grew up: coffee and toast.”
Focusing on the small things — like coffee and toast — allows Pomeroy to live her life more fully. And as she’s gotten older, she’s placed more importance on living in the moment. “When I’m having the best morning that I can have,” she says, “I’m not thinking about the rest of the day. It’s about being in the present moment. I don’t really want to think outside of where I’m at in that moment. My perfect morning is being in my morning, not thinking about my afternoon or evening.”
Pomeroy grounds herself in the simple pleasures, which she credits to her humble beginnings. The self-taught chef grew up in Corvallis, Oregon and recalls living in a modest home, without much money. And yet, her mother made the most of what they had — often preparing soufflés for their meals. As fancy as that might sound, a soufflé is actually quite simple, using only five ingredients. Pomeroy is inspired to this day by that ethos; making something beautiful from what you have. “When I was young, my mom stayed home with me,” she says. “We had a big garden and she cooked from it a lot. We didn’t have tv and because it was the 70s we didn’t have computers. I was an only child, so I had to entertain myself a lot. My love of food started around then — when I was really young.”
While her interest in food began as a little girl, Pomeroy didn’t yet realize it would be her career path. It wasn’t until she was studying history in college that it began to dawn on her that cooking was her passion. “Making food for me is a crazy obsession,” she says. “I did it before I was a chef. It was how I figured out that it’s what I should do. Instead of studying in college, I found myself taking on really extreme projects: I would have a dinner party for 20 people instead of writing a paper.”
Sure, she loves the act of cooking: “Being a chef is seeing things and deciding their place on the plate, deciding how much you manipulate those ingredients and how you will put your mark on it.” But she also loves the act of giving people delicious food and incredible experiences. “I get so much more from giving than receiving. I have an addiction to care taking for people. Seeing the look on someone’s face when they eat my food ... I feel joy in the entire process. From buying the ingredients to getting to see someone eat it. I like every single step of that process.”
Rather than having a ton of gear, Pomeroy has the right gear. “I love to use specific utensils and tools,” she says. “Some chefs are gear heads. They get really into all of their knives. But I’m a person who gets really into one or two things. I’m quality over quantity. All the time. With everything. I love my knives but I don’t have to collect every shape. I form relationships with my things. I have certain ones that I use over and over again, so the quality is important.”
Pomeroy wants quality over quantity with everything in her life, from her kitchen tools to her vintage car to her vinyl collection. She wants to see the humanness in things. “I listen to vinyl instead of cds. I love the rawness of the vinyl. I love to hear the pops and crackles. It’s an important part of remembering how it was made. I think things that have human touch are valuable. That’s why I like my vintage car — you can tell humans made it. That’s huge for me.”
That desire for connection to realness translates to Pomeroy’s love of cookbooks too, she says, “I like cookbooks because books are a sensory experience. If you pick up a book, you feel the paper. You smell the smell of the book. There’s a physical activity of turning the pages that keeps you in the book. There’s a romanticism to interacting with your things that I really care about.”
Ultimately, this is Pomeroy’s entire modus operandi: being grounded in real life; connecting with real people, places, things and experiences. “I like the things that bring you back to earth. I think if something gets too perfect it feels unapproachable,” she says. “My style of cooking is not very fussy. What I always aim for is to have something look very beautiful but have a realness to it.”
No matter what, Pomeroy’s a chef who cares less about perfection and more about meaningful connection. “It’s the same for food as it is with all of our stuff,” she says. “You can either get plastic food or food that has real substance.” From moment to moment, Pomeroy is setting the intention to live well. “Most of how I like to spend my time — morning, noon or night — is about surrounding myself with things that I really like,” she explains. “People that I like, foods that I like, music that I like. It’s all connected.”
Chef & Restaurant Industry Activist
Naomi Pomeroy is the chef and owner of Beast and Expatriate in Portland, Oregon. An Oregon native, she is a self-taught chef, and has a vision for a more equitable and sustainable model for the future of the food industry. In 1999, she founded the underground supper club sensation Family Supper, which led to opening the restaurants Gotham Tavern, clarklewis, and Gotham Coffee Shop. In 2007, she returned to her roots with Beast, an intimate 24-seat restaurant serving seasonal six-course tasting meals at communal tables. She was named a Best New Chef in Food & Wine in 2009, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Pacific Northwest in 2014, and published an award-winning cookbook, Taste & Technique, in 2016. In late 2020, against the backdrop of unprecedented changes, she transformed Beast into Ripe Cooperative, a marketplace that seeks to elevate the art of the home-cooked meal.
Profile Photo: Chris Court
“Seeing the look on someone’s face when they eat my food...I feel joy in the entire process. From buying the ingredients to getting to see someone eat it. I like every single step of that process.”
Chef and Restaurant Industry Activist
Jump-start your morning with her satisfyingly filling toast recipe.