David Machado has carved out an enviable track record across a restaurant career that now spans three decades. From humble jobs in San Francisco kitchens during the 1980’s, to the present moment as chef/owner of three highly regarded Portland restaurants, Machado has traveled a unique path, earning well-deserved respect and hard won wisdom.
While living and working in San Francisco, Machado absorbed powerful and long-lasting influences during a decade that marked the emergence of California cuisine in the Bay Area. After graduating with highest honors from California Culinary Academy in 1986, Machado launched his first eatery, Bottom of the Hill Café. “We had a wonderful six month run. We served an eclectic world cuisine to some San Francisco notables like Bruce Aidells and Mario Batali, who were regulars. After we closed, I vowed never to fail again.”
A two year stint at Ruby’s restaurant as chef, followed by a sous chef gig at Kuleto’s helped Machado prepare for an impending move to Portland. At each step along the way, Machado pocketed some essential truths that he would call on throughout his career. Consistency was the hallmark of most successful restaurants. Professional management, a well-trained staff, a buzz in the dining room, all were fundamental and vitally important. Rare in creative food types; Machado always sought to understand the relationship between a restaurant’s economics and consistently creative, high-quality cuisine.
A SMASH HIT IN DOWNTOWN PORTLAND
From San Francisco, Machado headed north to Portland with his young family in tow, to open Pazzo Ristorante as executive chef. Pazzo was an instant smash hit, with diners lined up and wowed by Machado’s signature dishes — Butternut Squash Cappalletti with Toasted Hazelnut and Sage Butter and Roasted Beet Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese. The executive chef later added the title general manager to his growing list of responsibilities. With the heat turned up high, Machado would go on to open six more restaurants in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco for Pazzo’s parent company, the San Francisco based Kimpton Group.
In 1997, Machado was enticed to move across town to a rival, the Heathman Group, as Vice-President of Restaurants. To rave local and national reviews, Machado opened Southpark Seafood Grill and Wine Bar (where he would later become executive chef) and also opened Hudson’s Bar and Grill at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, Washington. During the same time period, Machado operated The Heathman Restaurant at the Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland.
EASTSIDE DINING CRAZE: LAURO KITCHEN AND VINDALHO
With the economy in a downturn in late 2002-2003, Machado, with the help of his wife Julie, left the safety net of a big downtown restaurant, and struck out for the Eastside neighborhoods of Portland. That summer, he launched his first full service restaurant, Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen, a neighborhood bistro in Southeast Portland.
At Lauro, Machado managed to incorporate just about every lesson he’d learned along the way. Diners lined up night after night – entranced by dishes like Portuguese Pork and Clams with Roasted Peppers and Potatoes and Fried Calamari with Piri Piri Sauce. Bon Appetit named Lauro Kitchen one of the best new restaurants of 2003, and Lauro was named the Willamette Week Restaurant of the Year for 2004. Two years later, came Vindalho, an innovative and urban-chic approach to Indian food. Gourmet magazine wrote that, “Vindalho’s seasonal, farm-fresh approach to the classic dishes of India explains why there’s so much buzz about this loft like space in southeast Portland”.
After nine years, Chef Machado closed Lauro Kitchen in the late spring of 2012 to focus his efforts on his consulting business and on his downtown establishment, Nel Centro. He closed his Indian restaurant, Vindalho, in August 2013.
NEL CENTRO IN DOWNTOWN PORTLAND
In the spring of 2009, chef Machado took a calculated risk and returned to his roots in downtown Portland. In the midst of a bruising economic downturn, Machado saw an opportunity in the heart of the city’s theater and arts district and opened Nel Centro, adjacent to the Hotel Modera. A sleek, urbane and relaxed hotspot, Nel Centro’s culinary lineage is rooted in the French and Italian Riviera. Regional classics like Beef Daube with Red Wine, Olives and Fried Panisse as well as hand made pasta specialties, like Herb Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce, have inspired passionate fans from Portland and beyond. In February of 2010, chef Machado took over Nel Centro’s kitchen, where he currently presides as chef d’entreprise.
RECOGNITION AND GIVING BACK
From San Francisco to Portland, from Pazzo to Nel Centro, acclaim has followed. Machado’s restaurants and food have been chronicled in the pages of Food and Wine, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food Arts, Esquire, Sunset Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and The Oregonian. He has also appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs, Great Cities, as well as on Oregon Public Television’s Endless Feasts.
A gifted public speaker and teacher, David has lent his considerable experience and expertise to a new generation of chefs. He has been guest instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Portland Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Draegers Cooking School in Menlo Park, California, as well as the In Good Taste cooking school in Portland, Oregon. He is currently a guest instructor in kitchen management at the Art Institute of Portland.
Machado believes deeply in the importance of the public school system and he is passionate about the need to preserve and sustain local agriculture. He also believes strongly that the restaurant community has a responsibility to work on behalf of the hungry and homeless. In support of these values, Machado has been a vigilant and tireless volunteer, board member and fundraiser lending his skills, resources and leadership to these important issues. He has been actively involved with the following organizations: Portland Farmer’s Market, Loaves and Fishes, Oregon Food Bank, The Classic Wines Auction, New Avenues for Youth, Our House, and the Educational Foundation for School and Careers of the Oregon Restaurant Association.
Machado has been a past board member of the Portland Farmers Market, International Pinot Noir Celebration, Share Our Strength and Travel Portland. He is a past President and current member of the board of the Portland Jazz Festival, dedicated to bringing world-class jazz to the Pacific Northwest. He is also Board President of Third Angle New Music.
In 2009, David was honored to be named Oregon Restaurateur of Year by the Oregon Restaurant Association.