The media took notice. Articles about Family Supper appeared in Better Homes & Gardens and Sunset, and local journalists became regulars, including Caryn Brooks, then Willamette Week‘s arts editor, who esteemed Family Supper "a pleasant break from the predictable and pedigreed restaurant experiences around town."
"I once asked [Michael Hebberoy] about his goals and how he planned to expand," Brooks recently wrote in an e-mail from New York, where she is now an editor for the Associated Press. "He then proceeded to hold forth on a tip he had picked up from a book written by a restaurateur he admired. ’When it comes to the media,’ he said, ‘you have to fluff them, feed them and fuck them.’"
Clearly, this wasn’t business-as-usual in mostly polite Portland, nor was Michael Hebberoy’s proclivity for spending more of his time tending to the social mise-en-sc’ne than cultivating the culinary mise-en-place. And yet the attention he received as a result brought good things from afar. Morgan Brownlow, who’d cooked at Bizou and Rubicon in San Francisco, arrived back home in Portland in 2002. Tall, blond and boyish at 31, he sent out "100 résumés" to local restaurants, but no one responded, despite his pedigreed kitchen chops, until Hebberoy called, asking, "What the hell are you doing in Portland?" He hired Brownlow onto the Family Supper team soon after.
Tommy Habetz, who’d worked 90-hour weeks in New York City with Mario Batali and Bobby Flay, joined Family Supper soon after. As was the case with Brownlow, his star-studded résumé had also been largely ignored in Portland, nor was Habetz impressed with the food he’d eaten here.
"I’d been in Portland for over a year, and honestly I was not excited about the cooks I met," he says. "Then I got to cook at [Family Supper]. When you see cooks who can really cook like that, it makes you so excited."
By summer 2003, no Portland restaurant was getting as much local or national attention in the media as Family Supper, although there was no actual restaurant, a "formulaic" venture the Hebberoys insisted they had no interest in running.
But when Brownlow was offered a job in California, the Hebberoys finally gave in, proposing to open a dining room of Brownlow’s own to keep him in town–a great coup in the eyes of their growing roster of fans, including Eastside waterfront developer Brad Malsin, who offered them free rent in an empty warehouse on SE Water Ave until the restaurant was completed. Michael Hebberoy, who says that at the time he had no collateral or credit, applied for a bank loan and was swiftly rejected. Undaunted, he appealed to some of the better-heeled customers who’d helped make Family Supper such an overnight success.
David Howitt, a 38-year-old former corporate counsel for Adidas–who with his wife, Heather, had started a "small venture fund" after she sold her company, Oregon Chai, in 2004 for $75 million–would become Ripe’s largest investor.
"I don’t even want to call us investors; we were more like patrons," says Howitt. "Like when you’re supporting an artist."