Portland chef and restaurateur David Machado is a native of Fall River, Massachusetts. Fall River’s an old New England mill town, tough, gritty, and working class. He’s the son of Portuguese and Irish Catholic immigrant mill workers. Curious and ambitious, he’s drawn to the west.
The California Culinary Academy
It’s the late 1970s in San Francisco. Machado is in his 20s. He’s a home cook, cooking out of magazines and cookbooks. He enrolls and graduates from the very first class at the newly built California Culinary Academy with highest honors. In 1986, he launches his first eatery, Bottom of the Hill Café. “We had a wonderful six-month run,” he says. “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.”
Next is a two-year stint as chef at Ruby’s in San Francisco, followed by a sous chef gig at Kuleto’s. He’s quick to see the bigger picture. Consistency is the hallmark of most successful restaurants. Professional management, a well-trained staff, a buzz in the dining room, all are fundamental and essential. Machado begins to know first hand how a restaurant’s economics shape its ability to plate consistently creative, high-quality cuisine. That wisdom proves invaluable.
Pazzo Ristorante in downtown Portland
Portland, Oregon, the early 90s. Executive Chef David Machado opens Pazzo Ristorante in downtown Portland for the Kimpton Group. Instant smash hit. Diners line up, wowed by Machado’s signature dishes — Butternut Squash Cappelletti with Toasted Hazelnut and Sage Butter and Roasted Beet Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese. He tells one interviewer, “I’ve never seen a restaurant hit the way that restaurant hit.” He opens six more restaurants for Kimpton in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco.
In 1997, Machado is recruited by the Heathman Group where he becomes Vice-President of Restaurants. To rave local and national reviews, he opens Southpark Seafood Grill and Wine Bar, and where he later becomes Executive Chef.
Lauro Kitchen launches the East Side dining craze
In 2002, with his wife Julie, Machado launches a meteor — Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen in Southeast Portland. Sixty-five seats, open kitchen, airy dining room, and a menu driven by seasonal, local, fresh ingredients. A full service, neighborhood bistro, Lauro is the tripwire that dramatically transforms SE Division Street into one of the most creative stretches of restaurants in America. In 2004, Lauro is named Willamette Week Restaurant of the Year. “Lauro,” he tells a food industry journalist, “is a dream restaurant. It’s one bright shining light. I don’t know if I will ever hit it like that again.”
He describes his philosophy this way.
You buy food for what’s being sold in terms of quality, seasonality, and price. You put it in your walk-in. You buy it not for any particular reason; I don’t buy food to make recipes. My philosophy has been to buy food, create the larder. You have to have the talent and some training to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do today.” That makes food that’s immediate and interesting.’”
The years 2006 to 2017 see new projects and farewells. A few blocks from Lauro Kitchen Machado launches Vindalho. From Gourmet Magazine — “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.” In 2009, in the midst of a severe recession, Machado returns downtown and opens Nel Centro. A few blocks from the arts district, Nel Centro’s vibe is relaxed, uptown, swanky. The menu is rooted in the French and Italian Riviera. The outdoor patio — with fire pits — is one of the sexiest spots in the city.
With Nel Centro exceeding expectations, and his new consulting business attracting new clients, Machado sells Lauro and soon after, Vindalho.
Altabira City Tavern, Citizen Baker
In 2015, Chef Machado opens Altabira City Tavern and Citizen Baker in the city’s Lloyd District. The rooftop restaurant offers stunning views and a beer-centric menu that pairs Regional American cuisine with local craft brews, Northwest wines and local, distilled spirits. Citizen Baker is an urban bakery – cafe, making loaves of handmade, hearth breads, select pastries along with fresh soups, salads, sandwiches.
In 2017, Machado announces his next project, Tanner Creek Tavern in Portland’s Pearl District. Opening is expected in summer of 2017.
In the community
Chef Machado is actively involved with the following community organizations:
- Third Angle New Music — current Board President
- Portland Jazz Festival — current Board Member, past Board President
- KMHD — current Advisory Board Member
- Lan Su Chinese Garden
- The Classic Wines Auction
- Cork and Barrel
- Camp Ukandu
In the past, chef Machado has worked with:
- Portland Farmer’s Market — Board Vice-President
- Loaves and Fishes
- Oregon Food Bank
- New Avenues for Youth
- Our House
- Educational Foundation for School and Careers of the Oregon Restaurant Association
- International Pinot Noir Celebration
- Share Our Strength
- Travel Portland
In 2009, David was honored to be named Oregon Restaurateur of Year by the Oregon Restaurant Association.