3. Rising Star Chef: Holdfast

At a pop-up dinner concept, a young talent reboots fine dining with casual ceremony and seriously good food.

For chef Will Preisch, every pop-up meal is a long day’s journey into night.
For chef Will Preisch, every pop-up meal is a long day’s journey into night.

At 29, Will Preisch delivers a fresh vision of what fine dining in Portland can be: high-quality, highly personal, and casually ceremonial. He swings easily from modern to gritty, from one-bite snacks to multifaceted entrées, from foraged sea plants to a hunk of steer from New Seasons. He’s arguably Portland’s most exciting young chef—and he doesn’t work in a restaurant. 

Yes, we’re rolling the “rising star” dice on the sheer joy of eating one man’s food at a rented kitchen counter that feels more luncheonette than French Laundry. Preisch’s pop-up restaurant, Holdfast Dining, is barely four months old. But it weaves several threads of Portland’s food scene—temporary restaurants that don’t look like restaurants, a free-form approach to influences, informality raised to a new kind of formality—into a magnetic experience.

A pig’s-ear chip cradling blood pudding and a whiskeyed cherry; rib eye with cherry tomatoes, preserved currants, chanterelles, and pine butter

Holdfast holds court several times a month at Northwest Portland’s KitchenCru, a well-equipped kitchen rented to culinary dreamers by the hour. You sign up online, snuggle in at the 10-seat chef’s counter, and dig into six to 11 courses conceived, cooked, composed, and hand-delivered by Preisch himself (who often also serves as host and dishwasher). No middlemen, no waiters, no predictability—that’s the Holdfast rule. You might encounter one sublime pork chip holding a whiskeyed cherry—a pig’s ear meets the manhattan. And that might lead to artful squibs of green-grape gazpacho siding torched bread, charred avocado, and pristine squid with more bounce than Beyoncé. The rib eye kills, visually and flavorfully. One night, eight courses in, Preisch repackaged the American South into a single, revelatory bite of corn, fat, and honey born again as a savory corn-bread madeleine. This is what progressive food should be: creative but not precious, complex but not complicated, and, most important, delicious.

Can this model work? Will it be influential? Or will Holdfast be a flash in the pan? It’s anybody’s guess. But right now, Preisch has unleashed some of the best food to be found in Portland. This guy is going places.