YEARS BEFORE answering the clarion call of the kitchen, chef Jason French heard the howl of the wild. As a child, French roamed freely over his family’s 20 acres in rural Connecticut, blazing new trails through the forest with his brother, chopping wood, and igniting magical melty s’mores over the roaring flame of an open campfire at night. After a decade spent in some of Portland’s seminal kitchens—from Paley’s Place to Clarklewis preferred method still involves cooking with fire. At his own Northeast Portland restaurant, Ned Ludd, nearly everything passes through the 650-degree wood-fired oven—from braised Cattail Creek lamb and all manner of roasted veggies to that ever-present nod to his childhood, s’mores.
Of course, French isn’t the only chef in town with a streak of the frontiersman. Portland’s convenient proximity to nature inspires a rucksack of culinary tricks easily deployed beyond the kitchen limits, whether you’re high in the Cascades or at a beachside bonfire pit. In fact, as these recipes from some of the city’s star cooks prove, all gourmet camp cooking really requires is a little at-home prep. The results will forever change your definition of dining alfresco.