John Eisenhart named Executive Chef at Nel Centro

photo: Executive Chef John Eisenhart, Nel CentroNel Centro is proud to announce that John Eisenhart is our new executive chef. John has been an integral part of the Portland food scene over the last 11 years while directing the kitchen at Pazzo Ristorante as their executive chef. We are very excited to have chef Eisenhart join us and share his passion and expertise for Italian and French cooking. We are quite sure that this is the just the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

A recent conversation with chef John Eisenhart:

Why a career as a chef?
My first job was cooking at my mom’s deli in Sonoma, California. I did have plans to become a graphic designer and attended art school but when money ran out for school, cooking was the career path that I returned to.

Do you cook in your spare time?
Yes, I cook a range of cuisines but I am particularly interested in Asian cuisine at the moment.

Where does inspiration come from?
I am inspired by raw ingredients that are seasonal. I also enjoy the challenge of creating dishes when ingredients are limited. I feel that I can sometimes do my best work when options, ingredients and time are limited.

Your perfect meal?
That would have to be deep sea fishing and eating the fresh catch. I enjoyed a memorable meal like this in the Bahamas 15 years ago.

Your earliest memory of food or cooking?
My mom was a 1970’s hippie and loved to grow shiitake mushrooms, can produce from the garden and make homemade yogurt. My earliest food memories are from being involved in these DIY culinary projects.

Best part of your profession?
I love the teaching and mentorship that comes with being in charge of a kitchen staff. I also love seeing our work come together – dishes, menus and service. When things comes together just right, it gives me a great sense of satisfaction.

Favorite ingredients to work with?
I especially enjoy working with foraged ingredients — I spend time in the woods with my dog hunting for mushrooms and things like wood sorrel.

What are you looking forward to at Nel Centro?
I am probably most excited about the freedom and creative support that is being given to me at Nel Centro. I also appreciate working for an owner that is a chef himself. I consider this a refreshing change since it is becoming more unusual these days in larger restaurants.

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