WHEN CHEF Ken Norris packed his knives for Portland and left behind a long, successful culinary career in New York, he had one thing in mind: seafood. It’s been a lifelong fascination. “I started fishing as soon as I could hold a pole,” he says. When he was tall enough to work a kitchen counter, he applied for a job at New York’s famed Daniel and immediately became the go-to fish guy in chef Daniel Boulud’s highly trained battalion. After more than a decade of filleting and deboning his way through some of Manhattan’s best restaurants (most recently, Norris ran the kitchen at superstar Marcus Samuelsson’s August in the West Village), he turned his attention to Portland—and the city’s seafood-restaurant drought.
As he sketches plans for Riffle NW, his coast-to-table restaurant set to open later this year in Northwest Portland, Norris is casting out lines for local fishermen and coastal foragers. Meanwhile, he’s polishing old ideas and fishing for new ones. This simple chowder has been a standby in Norris’s repertoire for years. It’s a classic: delicious with any Oregon whitefish and perfect for weathering the autumn chill.