It Starts with the Chef
Traditional culinary training equips budding chefs with a basic-to-good understanding of wine, but beer is rarely part of the curriculum. Never the less, a number of celebrity chefs have reputations as “good beer guys,” according to Wendy Littlefield, co-founder of Belgian beer distributor Vanberg and deWulf. She cites Rick Moonen, Emeril Lagasse, and Charlie Trotter as examples of chefs who appreciate—although they may not sell—beer.
And she notes a natural appeal beer has for professionals: “Most chefs don’t drink wine at the end of the night: it’s too heavy. They drink beer.”
When a chef takes the lead in bringing great beer to the customers, the public notices.
Greg Higgins makes every beer expert’s list of beer-savvy chefs. Higgins Restaurant in Portland, OR, is nationally known for promoting fine local beers and Belgian ales along with its fresh, Northwest cuisine.
Beer dean and Portland resident Fred Eckhardt traces the origin of a well-known beer concoction: “Greg Higgins invented the stout float I have gotten so much mileage from.” At the restaurant, Eckhardt says, “He simply promotes Belgian and other wonderful beer imports, plus local and nationally known craft beers, and has an excellent draft beer list.”
Higgins’ sommelier Warren Steenson is equally enthuaiastic: “Greg Higgins is one of the most knowledgeable chefs I know. His love of edibles and drinkables is unlimited, and that includes beer. People don’t want a Bud and a steak; they are looking for true pairings of beer and food.
With over 125 beers on offer, it’s difficult to single out favorites. “It’s the little guys I really appreciate,” says Steenson. “Their beers might offend people who aren’t ready to get their feet wet, but these are wonderful beers, worth taking a chance on.”