Except to travel to Southeast Asia, again to study cooking. Upon her return Pomeroy moved in with Hebb, who began hatching a business plan. "He was very inspired by the meals I cooked at home. He said, ‘Between you and me, this is the perfect combination: You can cook; it’s always great; and I’m the same with people and marketing.’"
In 1999 they christened their as-yet-to-be-defined food business Ripe. In order to land their first catering gig, for an alternative bridal show they’d seen advertised in a fabric store, Hebb says he bluffed their credentials by telling the organizers they were Portland’s next big caterers. "Delusion is key. It’s the fog of war," Hebb says he told Pomeroy. "If anyone asks how busy we are, we are exceptionally busy."
Hebb’s tactics worked. By 2000, the Ripe duo were catering events for Portland’s burgeoning arts organizations and galleries out of the basement of their Northeast rental, which, says Pomeroy, they never had inspected by the Health Department.
In March 2001, the couple began to host their multicourse Family Suppers, in their living room. Guests–usually around 25–ate whatever Pomeroy felt like cooking. Meanwhile, Hebb orchestrated the social scene they were creating.
"We were all supposed to bring our own chair and deposit money in a bowl on our way out the door–it was all so new for us," says Lizzy Caston, a consultant who was then an urban planner with the Portland Development Commission and who attended the first Family Supper. "I got seduced right away. You have to understand: For years, Portlanders suffered from an inferiority complex. The suppers were by e-mail invitation only, and it made people feel like they were part of something really cool."
Within a year, the suppers had increased in frequency from one to six times a week, and had gone from being larded with friends to hosting an e-mail list that eventually grew to more than 12,000 names. By 2002, the couple had taken a new composite surname (they wouldn’t marry until 2004): Hebberoy, which they’d given to their daughter, born in 2000. They’d also found a new space for Family Supper, in the red-brick Gotham Building, set on an industrial stretch of N Interstate Ave where, in a few years, a new MAX light-rail line would be installed.
With no outside funding, they signed a lease, and on the first floor opened an unadorned coffee shop, where customers could peruse artfully scattered copies of Dwell while sipping their lattes. Four nights a week, they hosted Family Suppers in an upstairs dining room that, in the shadow of the Fremont Bridge, felt like the most urbane and happening gathering in Portland, provided you knew how to find it: Its location was deliberately kept a secret, with only an unmarked rear entrance and zero signage.
People found it. Portland luminaries from Vera Katz to Gus Van Sant passed platters of roasted chicken and fresh sardines to one another. The suppers, the price of which had increased to $25, plus more for wine, dessert and tip, began to sell out weeks and then months in advance. With the hiring of two additional chefs, both previously of Zefiro, the menus became more ambitious and more spontaneous.