Greg Denton has cooked for the most famous people in the world – now he cooks for himself. Denton has worked in the kitchen for the finest kitchens in America including Bouchon, French Laundry, and the CIA in Langley Virginia. Now he and his wife Gabrielle own Ox restaurant.
“Ox is a study of Portland and what the people like. It is rustic with hints of elegance and artistic appeal. It has fire. Fire is a really big draw. People love fire. People aren’t much smarter than fish or bugs. They are attracted to bright, shiny things.”
Another appeal that comes with the restaurant is the versatility of the restaurant.
“The menu is really anything for everybody. Steak and potatoes and we got it. Someone adventurous who wants to eat tongue or tripe or sweetbreads and we got it. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure meal.”
Although many describe Ox as being a unique restaurant, much of what goes on at Ox comes from Denton’s experience in previous kitchens. For example, he worked for a restaurant in Ohio where the chef was very particular about chives. To this day, the way chives are prepared is very important to Denton.
“You can ask anyone how I feel about chives. They have to be perfect. I can tell you how good a restaurant is based on what their chives look like.”
Along with technique and perfecting the art of running a restaurant, Denton also learned what not to do.
“There were things that I saw that I didn’t like. I’ve always had a moral compass. Certain things need to be fair for me. There are things that after a while you learn and pick up over time. but you also learn about what you do not want to be.”
For example, Denton saw how even four star restaurants used low end ingredients to maximize profits. Ox, on the other hand, uses the more expensive local and organic products. In fact, in the back of their restaurant they have a garden that grows enough tomatoes to serve as the only restaurants tomato supply.
After working all over the country, Greg and Gabrielle Denton moved to Portland and opened their first restaurant: Metrovino.
Four years later, Metrovino closed down in late 2013. Learning from both their successes and mistakes at their previous restaurant, the Dentons opened up Ox. Very soon after opening, Ox received Restaurant of the Year from the Oregonian. Since then, Ox has received a variety of awards and national attention.
There is one interesting thing you will find in any review of Ox. Sure, writers speak of the wonderful tastes and flavors in every dish. But every single review I have read also spends a great deal of time talking about the service and hospitality at Ox.
“It is going above and beyond what is expected of you. Kindness and generosity is something that people remember. It becomes more than just a meal. It becomes an experience and memory that you share with other people. And that is what we try to be about: the experience of Ox.”
Greg on food
Just as Denton looks at chives as a clue to the quality of a restaurant, he also looks at balance to find the quality of a meal.
“Balance is the biggest thing. When we put together a dish we are always concerned about palate fatigue. We focus on our dishes getting better as you go through the dish.”
Greg and Gabrielle recently bought a highend Portland restaurant called Gruner. Their new restaurant is called Super Bite.
Greg on Super Bite
We had an opportunity to grow our brand because as much as we would want to open up another Ox, we don’t want to dilute what is special here. When Gabby and I go out to a restaurant we order a lot of things so we can combine them into what we call a superbite. Think about going to a sushi restaurant and getting some sushi but then adding some teriyaki chicken then a fried pepper and a little wasabi and ginger and soy sauce – that’s a super bite. It’s making something that more than two or three bites would be too much but [after] those two and three bites you wish you had one more bite.