Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Yachats Gazette, Issue 25, August 31 2013

Interview with Michelle Korgan of Ona Restaurant

The Yachats Gazette spent some time with Michelle Korgan, Chef Owner of Ona Restaurant and Lounge, located at 131 Highway 101 North in Yachats, OR.

TYG: When did the restaurant open?
Michelle: We opened Ona on October 8th of 2010.

TYG: What is the main idea behind this restaurant?
Michelle: Well, I grew up in the restaurant business, and I always wanted to have my own place, and it really stems from my parents’ love of food. They cultivated their restaurant around the Northwest food movement as it was beginning. They started out having kind of a German-style deli, and by the time I was 20 it was very Northwest-sourced and focused on things that you could get locally in the area, that are special to Oregon and the Northwest. So I’ve kind of carried that tradition here, but as ona means “shellfish” in Chinook, it has more of a focus on seafood and coastal cooking.

When I opened Ona, one thing I was trying to do was to get away from [what] this place had been before, which was fine dining only, and I wanted everyone to feel that it was approachable. You can come in and get a light meal, or a nice big rib-eye.

TYG: Why did you choose this particular building for the restaurant?
Michelle: Well, when I first entertained the idea of having a restaurant, we were actually looking at a place in Waldport. It was really in bad shape, and everything in my mind, body, and spirit was saying, “No, don’t do it!” [laughter] I had a friend who was telling me that at this place, the people who owned it were going to not renew the lease, that someone else had bought the building. So she had called him and told him that I was interested in having a restaurant, and so he called me and asked me if I would do it here!

TYG: Interesting! How has the building changed since you acquired it?
Michelle: You know, there was a really big remodel done when it became the Yachats River House. They did a wonderful job of putting a new face on it. So the things that I’ve really changed are more like the interior color, and I’ve added local art—they had art that was nice, but one [part] of my vision was to always display local artists, so we’ve added that. I think the biggest thing we’ve done is the covered patio. The outside seating was always there, but it wasn’t covered, and it didn’t have any heating. ... so that was a nice addition to the place, and people are really enjoying it.

TYG: I bet! I certainly do. … What kinds of food do you serve?
Michelle: We serve a huge variety of things—something for everyone. There’s the grilled cheese that you really like, and burgers, and then we have fish and chips, and oysters, and crab cakes. And we have some things at dinner that are a little bit more fancy—we do a lot of specials with salmon, and halibut, and whatever we feel like. We get lots of stuff from the farmer’s market in the summertime, and try to buy things as locally as possible. We focus on really good food that starts in our backyard. We do have a kitchen garden out there now.

TYG: Kitchen garden? What does that mean?
Michelle: Well, it’s a term that restaurants use when you are able to grow food that’s used in the restaurant. And it’s not very big so there’s not a ton of stuff, but a lot of our herbs come out of there. We have several different kinds of mint, rosemary and thyme, lots of different kinds of thyme… sage, and right now we have snap peas…. And we have lots of edible flowers that we decorate our plates with…. And we’re making some things for our cocktails right now, too—rosemary simple syrup, and a honey sage syrup—experimenting with different things from the garden.

TYG: Who cooks for the restaurant?
Michelle: Well, there are several people that cook—probably ten cooks? Anthony is the head chef, and he manages everybody that’s back there. And then we have four or five line cooks, and four cooks that do the salads, desserts, and appetizers. They don’t all work at one time….

TYG: Yeah, because that space is maybe big enough for four cooks to operate effectively, probably…
Michelle: … We usually have four cooks every night at some point—usually three, and then a fourth comes in to take the pressure off. And the on Friday and Saturday we’ll have four cooks and an expediter, to keep things organized in the kitchen.

TYG: What’s an expediter?
Michelle: An expediter is somebody who keeps open communication between the orders that are coming in, to all the cooks.… someone who organizes how the flow of the kitchen is going. They call out orders as they come in from the servers, and make sure that things are being fired at the same time, meaning that everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do at the same time. And if there are any issues between the servers and the cooks, they take care of any special needs that come up. The expediter lets the servers know “your food’s up,” and helps them stage things, like, “here’s your salads, here’s your soups,” and makes sure that the servers are prompt in getting everything out to the tables. And, if a server is, say, stuck at a table talking with someone, they’ll pull in someone else… to make sure everyone gets their food.

TYG: Where do you come from personally? Are you Yachatian, or are you sort of an immigrant?
Michelle: I grew up in Oregon, I’m a native Oregonian, but I grew up in Portland. I’ve been in the Yachats area for about 15 years.

TYG: Wow! I didn’t know you’d been around that long.
Michelle: The first eight years I lived here, I lived at the lighthouse.

TYG: Where did you get your training for being a chef?
Michelle: Both of my parents are certified executive chefs. They had their restaurant for 20 years in Portland, and they hired many people along the way who were also professional chefs, so I got my training through them, and all the people that they hired. So I grew up doing it.

TYG: So you don’t have the degree of a chef.
Michelle: I do not. I did not go to culinary school.

TYG: Do you have a hero chef who inspires your cooking?
Michelle: Oh, wow—I’d say I have a lot of hero chefs. My parents inspired me. They started cultivating my palate at a very young age. They would take me to restaurants and have me taste things and tell them what’s in it, playing the ingredients game. They have always inspired me when it comes to food. And also, [the fact that] they are a couple, and they’ve been in the business of creating food together. They used to come to the coast to make their menus. They’d rent a condo, and camp out for three or four days—getting ingredients at the store, and using the little kitchen in the condo…. Probably the next person who inspires me the most is Anthony, the chef that is here now. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to find somebody that, much like my parents, we can work together and have that kind of companionship that centers around food, and the passion of cooking. And there’s a lot of chefs that I learned from throughout the years—this one man in particular, Damon Josephy, worked for my parents as their head chef for many years. He was a very creative and sweet man, and I learned a lot by watching him. I’ve always appreciated James Beard, I’ve read a lot of his work… not just because of his recipes, but the way that he thinks about food, and the way that he eats. He’s kind of a “little of this, and a little of that” chef. He really likes the picnic idea—lots of different moving parts, but keeping things simple.

TYG-Graphic Design : That must be a difficult question for you, Allen, since you only eat a restricted menu. Is it hard for you to understand how she’s thinking about food?
TYG: Yeah. 
Michelle: I think about food a lot. And I don’t think there’s a single thing that I don’t like.

TYG-GD: Really? You like everything?
Michelle: If it’s prepared well. If it’s prepared the way it’s intended. I think there was one thing recently that, like, “You know, I just really don’t like uni (sea urchin).” And I just recently had it extremely fresh, and it was really beautiful, and it was like, “This is amazing.” What I didn’t like about it before—I like things that are fishy, but I like them to be salty as well. And uni was kind of like, just fishy, and not the salt component, so it just sat in my mouth. But I had it with a quail egg on top, and it was so awesome.

TYG: What kind of training does Anthony Velarde have?
Michelle: Anthony has a degree from the Cordon Bleu in L.A., and that is a French culinary school.

TYG: How was business over the summer?
Michelle: It has been a banner year. I keep thinking that it can’t get any busier, and then it just keeps getting busier!

TYG-GD: What do your children think about the restaurant, and how are they involved, and do you play the ingredients game with them? 
Michelle: [laughter] They aren’t… quite as adventurous yet with their palates. They’re getting there. I got Alex to try seaweed salad, and Skyler’s starting to [try] spicy things. They love the restaurant. They’re very proud of it. Alex has his own item on the children’s menu now…

TYG: What is it?
Michelle: It’s “Alex’s Cheesy Eggs and Toast.” I make that for them in the morning a lot, where I’ll scramble some eggs and throw some cheese in it….

TYG: Do the kids like it, the kids that come here to the restaurant?
Michelle: Mm-hmm. And I surprised them—I put it on the children’s menu, and printed it off. One morning he was having the Cheesy Eggs and Toast, and he said, “THIS needs to be on the MENU!” And so I did it!  And they both have expressed interest in being future employees. [laughter]

TYG: Or perhaps successors! 

The Yachats Farm Tour

The Yachats Gazette staff enjoyed ourselves tremendously as we took the annual Farm Tour down the Yachats River Valley. The Publisher asked a few questions of representatives from each farm.

Our first stop was at the last farm of the tour, called The Ranch, where we spoke with Nancy Kromer.

TYG: What are your key crops?
Nancy: I sell organic beef by the side. Coastal Cutters, just south of Newport, processes the meat.

TYG: When did your farm open?
Nancy: The farm has been a farm since 1959.

TYG: Why did you participate in the farm tour?
Nancy: I love to share the outdoors, and the fruit from my fruit trees, and blueberries from my garden—I mean, it’s more than I can use.

TYG: Where are the fruit trees?
Nancy: Well, on this side of the garage, I have tub gardens. And I have peach, two or three different kinds of plum, cherry, pear, apple, blueberry...

TYG: Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
Nancy: This has been called The Ranch since 1959. It used to be a mill, and that pond down there used to be the mill pond. There used to be mill buildings and cabins around here.

TYG:  Thanks for your time.


The second stop was at Yaquina Nursery and Greenhouses, where we spoke with Gerry, and her African Gray parrot named Bailey.

TYG: What are your key crops?
Gerry: Cactus and succulents. We’ve been in
business 43 years. We opened it in 1970.

TYG: Why did you participate in the farm tour?
Gerry: Because I want people to know we’re out here.

TYG-Graphic Design: Do you sell in shops too, or just on the farm?
Gerry: We do all the New Seasons [grocery stores] in Portland—all of them, 15 of them. And then we do the Farm Market, and then people in their little shops—floral shops. It keeps us busy! I was doing it mostly myself, but then Roy’s daughter moved up here, and her friend, so we got some help. [Roy is Gerry’s husband.]

TYG: Thank you so much for your time.
Gerry: You’re welcome, sweetie!


The Yachats Gazette next stopped at Yachats Specialties, and spoke with Ann Jenson.

TYG: What are your key crops?
Ann: Mostly herbs and vegetables, but I do raise beef. My farm is not really open to the general public most of the time because I sell to the restaurant trade, so I’m more wholesale than I am commercial.

TYG: Why do you participate in the farm tour?
Ann: Just to get people out and about and see what fresh is.

TYG: Thank you so much for your time. 
Ann: You’re welcome!


After this, we wandered over to Starshine Ranch to speak with Elaine McNichols, and to admire their peacocks, llamas, and alpacas.

TYG: What are your key crops?
Elaine: The only thing we produce and sell with any regularity is peacocks.

TYG: You sell peacocks? I bet they’re a lot of work to take care of.
Elaine: Not a lot, you have to feed them, and be nice to them, and protect their babies when they’re young, to keep predators and cold and wet from killing them. [...]

TYG: When did your farm open?
Elaine: Well, we bought it in 1996, but we didn’t actually move here until 1998, and we got our first pair of peacocks in 1999. Which we got accidentally when someone dumped a couple on our [now] 102-year-old neighbor Lester Hall. [...] His dog chased them and they wound up in our trees along the river. They wandered around the valley for a couple of weeks while stealing various people’s chicken feed and dog food. But then they showed up on our deck one morning and we made the mistake of giving them bread and they would not leave. [...] So they started breeding, and they have four to six babies every time. But they only do that about once a year here. I guess it’s possible to do it more than once a year farther south. It takes 28 days to hatch the eggs.

TYG: That’s really not that long.
Elaine: Well it is if you’re sitting on the ground the whole time doing nothing! They come out once a day to take a drink and eat and take a dust bath—that all takes about 20 minutes, and then they’re on the nest again for the next 23 hours. [...] It takes them about nine months to get full-size and leave their mom. [...] I have one male, but he’s hard to tell because he’s already lost his tail feathers—they usually molt once a year. So you don’t have to pull out their tail feathers to get them. You just wait till they drop out naturally. [...]

TYG: Why did you participate the farm tour?
Elaine: We like telling people about our animals, educating them, and we do have a few products that we sell: the peacock feathers and the fiber that we shear off the llamas and alpacas.

TYG: Thank you so much for your time.


The Yachats Gazette’s next stop was at the Forks Farm, where we spoke with Catherine Lucido (other Forks Farm principals are her husband, Richard Taves, and her grandson, Christian Lucido).

TYG: What are your key crops?
Catherine: Cut flowers and blueberries, and everything is organic.

TYG: When did your farm open?
Catherine: I started planting blueberries when I moved here in 1991 and I’ve always grown flowers and food.

TYG: Why did you participate in the farm tour?
Catherine: Because I originated the farm tour.

TYG: You originated in the farm tour? All righty then… so where did you get the idea for the farm tour?
Catherine: I don’t know exactly—I just thought it would be a fun thing to do, and it would be a neat way to get people to come to Yachats to see the other parts of the coast and our beautiful little valley. And it’s our fourth year, and there are about six or seven farms that participate. It’s all very loosely organized, so it’s not like we have to have meetings or anything like that, we just say we want to be in it and we do it. It’s very fun because we get locals, and the we get  people from Europe, we get people from all over the United States. It’s not like they come just for the tour, but they come to Yachats and then end up coming because it’s such a neat thing to do.

[...] Have you ever come to one of the Farm Dinners? [...] We did one for Peter Karassik, the Farmer’s Market manager—we did a fund-raiser. And then we did a fund-raiser for Food Share of Lincoln County last year. There’s a local foods group in the county, that meets probably once a month, and [...] they work on getting people to buy local foods and to be aware of them.

TYG: How has the Farm Tour been success-wise, so far?
Catherine: Great. It’s been a great success, a big hit. I think everyone has a great time and seems to like it.

TYG: Thank you!    


We then visited Rise and Shine Farm where we spoke briefly with Arin Rain (his partner is Karie Godels).

TYG: When did your farm open?
Arin: Oh, about 14 years ago.

TYG: What is your key crop?
Arin: Our main crops are apples, blueberries, and of course we have the honeybees, so honey and bee products (candles, pollen), and also skin products, that we make from the herbs in our gardens.

TYG: Why did you participate in the Farm Tour?
Arin: I think it’s a really neat way of connecting with the community and I just love the raw energy of it. People are super-kind and really sweet.

TYG: Thank you for letting us interview you.
Arin: Thank you!


We then drove back in the direction of Yachats, to stop at the last stop on the Tour, which featured 3 stands: Bloom! an artscape (Sandy Mier offered card-making activities), Judy Carson-Kauffman from Seeds of Oregon and the Carson-Kauffman Farm, and Debbie Ostling of Triple D Ranch. We first spoke with Judy.

TYG: When did your farm open?
Judy: My parents purchased it when I was six months old in 1943. We’ve always lived on this farm. Before we owned it, it was a mink farm.

TYG: What is your key crop?
Judy: My husband didn’t want to be a farmer—he wanted to grow vegetables, but no cows. So we have
four gardens and two greenhouses. Mainly vegetables and jellies.

TYG: Why did you participate in the farm tour?
Judy: Because I like people! [laughter]

TYG: Thank you for your time.


The Yachats Gazette next spoke to Debbie Ostling. 

TYG: What are your key crops?
Debbie: I raise here on the farm grass-fed beef, grass-fed goats, and lambs. I also sell fresh cow milk and goat milk.

TYG: When did your farm open?
Debbie: I lease the farm from the owner, Judy [Carson-Kauffman], and I have been raising animals here for almost 13 years. The farm was originally purchased and established almost 100 years ago.

TYG: Why do you participate in the farm tour?
Debbie: It adds sales to our business, and hopefully brings in more customers.

TYG: Thank you so much for your time.
Debbie: You’re welcome—thanks!


The Yachats Gazette brought home quite a haul! Many thanks to the farmers who hosted us that day.


Interview with Beverly Wilson of the Yachats Visitors’ Center

The Yachats Gazette interviewed Beverly Wilson by e-mail.

TYG: What exactly does the Visitors Center do?  
Beverly Wilson, Contract Director: The Visitors Center really has two purposes. One is to attract visitors to Yachats and the other is to provide information to visitors once they’re here. On site we provide friendly customer service, current brochures for local businesses and attractions, area maps and other resources, key regional and state travel guides, maps and magazines. Our efforts to attract visitors to Yachats include responding to drop-in coast travelers and telephone inquiries, and by email and mail to individual and group requests for visitor information. We also respond to travel interest leads provided by regional tourism organizations, to leads generated by advertising and other promotional efforts, to media requests for Yachats area information, and to media facts checkers. Often times just talking to people who are “passing through” about what there is to do and see here results in an overnight (or longer) stay. For instance, this Thursday a traveling couple without a travel agenda came in and asked volunteer Garner McDonald to tell them about Yachats. He talked with them for close to an hour and by the end of this conversation the couple decided to book a room and stay for a few days. The center also produces and widely distributes Yachats brochures, news releases and other promotional material, and I participate in the city’s coordinated marketing team meetings and in event and regional tourism project planning.

TYG: Where exactly is it located?
Beverly: The Visitor Center is located downtown between West 2nd and 3rd streets in the first little “cottage” next door to C & K Market. (In the old days all the little shops here were vacation cottages. Our literature display room was a car port!) This plaza has been a great location through the years for both foot and car traffic and for spontaneous visits from people stopping to shop at the grocery.

TYG: Why do people come here?
Beverly: Most of our visitors say that they’re here on holiday or here for a beach getaway, but people also gather here for reunions, weddings, workshops, our annual village events...This summer we’ve had visitors who’ve come to escape the smoke from fires east and south of us, and others who say they’re here to retreat from high summer temperatures in other parts of the country. We are fortunate to have a lot of return visitors who dearly love our village and our area’s natural wonders, parks and amenities. A good many first timers come on the recommendation of family members or friends, or a respected travel writer, the most famous being Arthur Frommer.

TYG: Who are the primary people who run it?
Beverly: Well, it takes a village and a lot of volunteers! Our local chamber contracts with the city of Yachats to operate the Visitor Center. As the chamber’s contract director for the Visitors Center I coordinate daily operations and volunteers. Our volunteer staff members greet visitors, answer questions, respond to requests for visitor information, and prepare mailings.

TYG: Why do people volunteer here?
Beverly: For a variety of reasons really...for social interaction, because they want to help generate good will and welcome visitors who are so important to our local economy, because it’s fun to meet people from all around our state, nation and the world who are happy and here enjoying time on our beautiful coastline and in our lovely village...

TYG: How did it get started?
Beverly: About nineteen years ago, the chamber’s board of directors approached the city about funding a visitor center and promoting visits to Yachats by dedicating a small portion of lodging tax revenue to this purpose. The city agreed that this was a good idea as tourism brings a good deal of revenue into the city and also helps support many local businesses. This is also how other city visitor centers are commonly funded.

TYG: What are your hours of operation?
Beverly: Our generous volunteers help keep the center open daily during the high season, mid-March through September or mid-October, from 10 am to 4 pm. During low season the center is open 10 am to 4 pm Friday through Sunday, our busiest days in town. Beginning this last year we’ve also added Thursday afternoons from 1 to 4 pm in low season due to a new volunteer’s availability. We also have several outdoor literature boxes that are available to visitors anytime, and I answer email inquiries throughout the week year round as well.

TYG: What is: “We Speak”?  
Beverly: The “We Speak” project is a subject-based training series involving presentations by local experts on topics of special interest to visitors, including area trails; tide pooling and marine reserves; local history; local arts; water sports; whale watching; fishing, crabbing and clamming; native plants; birding etc. These presentations expand visitor center volunteer training and are open to front line staff throughout South Lincoln County. By front line staff, we mean anyone who is in regular contact with visitors, from lodging employees to gas station attendants. DVD recordings of these subject presentations will be available for ongoing review and training purposes and will be accompanied by Facts Sheets.  Individuals who complete trainings will receive a “We Speak” lapel pin, and businesses with trained staff will receive “We Speak” subject decals for framed display. I’m the project coordinator but I work with a team of representatives from Seal Rock, Waldport, and Yachats. Funding for our recording and printing costs was secured by a grant from Lincoln County Community and Economic Development Fund (LCCEDF) with graphic design and advisory support from Travel Oregon.

TYG: What are your programs throughout the year (SOLV, CERT, etc.)?
Beverly: Each Spring and Fall we serve as a registration point for people volunteering in SOLV’s Beach Clean-Up. Many Beach Clean-Up volunteers actually now pre-register online, but volunteers still come to us to pick up their protective gloves and beach clean-up bags and to select an area of beach to clean.  Our involvement with CERT is less formal. We do distribute tsunami evacuation maps through the Visitors Center, and we participate in tsunami evacuation drills when the fire department schedules them during our hours of operation.