Consistent, simple and purposeful. This is the philosophy and approach that has propelled Chef Jenn Louis to a culinary career spanning nearly two decades. After graduating from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, Louis traveled throughout Europe and North and South America, even settling in Southern Israel for several months to work on a dairy kibbutz. Upon her return to California, she learned of a job opening from a close friend cooking for an Outward Bound base camp deep in the North Carolina woods. Louis landed the job and after a few short weeks at the camp, she had an epiphany that cooking was her passion and could lead to a successful and fulfilling life-long career -– something she had never considered before. Louis followed this dream all the way to the Western Culinary Institute of Portland, and shortly after began working as a line cook at the prominent Portland restaurant, Wildwood.
In 2000, Louis’ entrepreneurial spirit led her to open Culinary Artistry, a full-service catering company, providing everything from valet service to floral arrangements to an array of menu styles. Today, it is considered one of the top event planning companies in Portland.
Eight years later, rooted by the myriad inspirations of their home, Louis and husband David Welch opened their first brick-and-mortar concept, Lincoln Restaurant. Lincoln is a balance between old and new, modern and classic, rustic and refined. Louis’ menu takes its cue from the seasons, harvesting locally-grown Pacific Northwest ingredients and transforming them into sophisticated, yet honest fare. Her mix of fortitude and finesse immediately made Lincoln a standout in the Portland restaurant scene. Just a few short months after opening, the restaurant was recognized as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot List” of 50 top new restaurants in North America, while Louis was recognized as a semifinalist for the 2010 and 2011 James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Northwest.”
The success of Lincoln was overwhelming, but it sparked an idea for her next venture. In the spring of 2011, Louis and Welch launched their second restaurant, Sunshine Tavern, in the Southeast Division district of Portland. Louis and Welch sought to create a haven for both food enthusiasts and beverage connoisseurs, serving up soul-satisfying food, playful cocktails and an impressive selection of craft beers. For this quintessential tavern, Louis created dishes that are comforting and unfussy, while using the highest quality ingredients available -– a philosophy she has felt passionate about throughout her culinary career. In 2012, the popularity of Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern catapulted Louis’ presence on a national scale and she was named one of Food & Wine’s prestigious Best New Chefs. The following year, Jenn was selected as a cast member of season five of the hit Bravo TV show, Top Chef Masters.
When not in the kitchen or planning events, Louis can be found traveling the globe with her husband, teaching cooking classes, playing the drums or spending time with her three cats, White Cat, Orange Cat and Wasco.