Catching up with world-renowned chef Naomi Pomeroy
June 17, 2021
We recently caught up with Naomi Pomeroy — the James Beard award-winning owner of Ripe Cooperative, here in Portland, OR — to chat about food, life, and her amazing new ice cream made with Mizuba matcha.
Mizuba: Tell us about how Ripe Cooperative started! What is the vision behind it?
Naomi: Beast was such a special place, but it was a small, intimate space. As the pandemic continued it became clear that we needed to make a change. Creating something a little less exclusive and more easily accessible to people was an exciting idea to act on. There was a tendency to think of Beast for special occasions only, whereas with Ripe we can give people an elevated food experience on their terms.
What decisions did you make in curating your menu?
Our focus is to create elevated staples that make it easy for people to enjoy a high quality meal with minimal effort. With that being said, the menu has been changing pretty much constantly since we opened Ripe in November of 2020. Seasonality has always been important. There's such an abundant amount of produce throughout the year to be inspired by. We also pay attention to trends in the marketplace and what people want to see on the menu.
You feature Mizuba Matcha so beautifully. Tell us the process behind how you appreciate, present and serve matcha (ice cream!).
Funny story, actually all of the branding and color choices for Ripe were based on a green tea ice cream I had in Kyoto. Clearly it's very near and dear to me. I also love and appreciate how the bitterness of matcha tones down the sweetness of our frozen custard and creates a savory quality.
What do you most appreciate about Mizuba matcha, or how are you inspired by it?
I love to support local makers and businesses. It's exciting to have a delicious product made locally.
How can people best support Ripe Cooperative currently?
It's been really fun to start this new business, however at the same time it's still a new business and starting over is difficult. Our hope is that people come in and enjoy what we're offering, then go put it on instagram and tell their friends. It's all about getting the word out for something to really catch on.
The Independent Restaurant Coalition has been such a great thing to be a part of. Working with them and advocating for people less fortunate in the industry gave me a focus during this past year. I know that I've been lucky compared to other business owners and I felt an obligation to use my platform to give a voice to this frequently overlooked industry. Even without the pandemic it's been obvious for a long time that the restaurant industry has needed an overhaul. Covid didn't create a lot of what we're seeing.
Also, little known fact, I was a poli sci major in college and I have a deep interest in how things get done behind the scenes. Large organizations like the National Restaurant Association represent corporate businesses and are against things like raising the minimum wage for restaurant workers. It was important to me to be a part of a group that advocates for smaller businesses and real change in the industry.