Bio: Red Star Executive Chef Thomas Dunklin's resume is impressive. Working with some of America's most notable names gave Tom the high level of experience and education any aspiring chef dreams of. Still, for Tom, what makes it all click is more than mentorship – it's family traditions and growing up in a region where food is so interwoven into the culture that it is the heart of social lives.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Tom survived long, hot Louisiana days grubbing down shellfish at the weekly "boils" in his grandparents' yard. This Sunday ritual of breaking bread with family – and sometimes baking bread with family – sowed the seeds of Tom's vision for New American cuisine, one rooted in hard work, solid relationships with local farmers, flexibility in the kitchen and family.
After a few years away, Tom Dunklin returned to New Orleans in 2000 and began building his new career path. Working at Delmonico under celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse, Tom learned to trust his palate. "Emeril taught me to constantly taste food," says Tom.
Tugged by the dream of heading west, Tom moved to Seattle and began working under Chef Jan Birnbaum as a pastry and sous chef at Sazerac. Here Tom drove the creation of an exciting house-made salami and meats program. Two years later, he moved over to Tulio in Seattle where he continued crafting cured meats working alongside Executive Chef Walter Pisano. "Walter showed me that the best recognition is from the product you put on the table, not from talking yourself onto a pedestal."
For Tom, the evolution to Portland was natural. "Portland's an up and coming culinary city that's focused on sustainability," says Tom. "The farmers and produce are amazing and people are seeking out vibrant, quality food."
When he's not in the kitchen or out on the farm meeting his purveyors, Tom spends his time enjoying life outdoors, on any manner of boards – in winter it's a snowboard, and in summer it could be a surf, wake or skateboard.