Still, Storrs is tickled by what Michael Hebberoy tried to pull off. "This Svengali weaves his magic web and seduces everyone, then steals out under the cover of darkness. Then, he’s gone to the evil sister city of Seattle to do it again! It’s beautiful! You want to sit back and just applaud."
In September 2006, five months after Family Supper and Gotham’s doors closed, Michael Hebberoy wrote a short article about "fall’s best new restaurants" for Men.style.com, in which he is identified as a "Portland-based chef [and] architect."
Today, he is neither of these. Hebberoy currently lives in Seattle, in a sparsely furnished house he rents in the Madrona neighborhood with a childhood friend. From the dining room’s bay window, he enjoys a lovely view across Lake Washington.
On a Sunday afternoon in mid-December, the house smells of chicken broth, which Hebberoy is preparing for his new "event"–called One Pot, in which the main course is, as may be self-evident, all cooked in a single pot–which he will host this evening with a guest chef at Verité Coffee, a café and cupcake shop, also in Madrona. The invitation, written all in lowercase letters and sent via e-mail, began: "one pot is meant to be a bit more than a way of cooking, or a way to gather people, or a way to make some cash. it is meant as a gesture–a gentle fuck you–to the corporate box we reside in and are supposed to dine in." Those who warmed to the entreaty received a confirmation that included instructions to bring $35 cash.
"Me moving to Seattle, Jesus Christ," says Hebberoy, looking younger than 30 in a too-small, soft T-shirt and moppety hair. "Every top person in the field of art and culture in this town has been tapping my shoulder about One Pot." He cites cultural lightning rods as disparate as "the Al Gores" and "the coolest punk clubs."
"I don’t have to deal with bridge-and-tunnel and money guys and financial guys; I get to deal with creative folks these days, and that’s always what I wanted to do," he says. "Portland and I broke up."
An hour before he drives the broth to the evening’s event, Hebberoy turns to the topic of the people he left behind in Portland: the Howitts are "striped-shirt idiots"; the Oregonian A&E article that quoted his diary is "one of the most stupidly written pieces ever"; and Pomeroy and Habetz are to blame for Gotham’s demise. His only kind words are reserved for Brad Malsin ("I love Brad") and Morgan Brownlow, although the latter olive branch was extended, according to Hebberoy, only after Brownlow sent an e-mail apologizing for saying anything negative about him. In response, Hebberoy invited Brownlow to Seattle to cook at some One Pot events. Brownlow initially refused, but in late January, asserting that "life’s too short to contemplate one’s failures," he accepted the invitation.
The conversation turns toward the days leading up to Ripe’s demise. Hebberoy says that he was "terrified," and that he desperately tried to keep the company afloat by telling bigger and bigger stories, about hotel projects and their house gin and books that didn’t yet exist–the "build it and they will come" model in reverse.
"The only avenue I saw was getting people excited about the vision of its future as a brand," he says. "Because as an entity in and of itself, its profits and losses sucked. I was selling blue sky, because that was the only thing I knew how to do."