||L E A T H E R S T O R R S
Leather Storrs is the Chef and co/owner of Noble Rot in Portland Oregon. Storrs is a graduate of both the University of Colorado (English Lit.) and the Culinary Institute of America. Formative culinary work includes Chez Panisse in Berkeley California, the Culinary Institute’s Graystone Restaurant in St. Helena, California & the French Laundry, in Yountville, California.
His first job as a head chef was painful. In 1999, Storrs attempted dinner service at one of Portland’s most beloved breakfast and lunch restaurants: the Bijou Café. But even at eight p.m. Portlanders wanted omelettes. Dinner was discontinued after nine months. Discouraged, Storrs worked as an assistant winemaker at Brick House Vineyards in the Willamette Valley and also as a food critic for the Portland Tribune and Citysearch. His then fiancé, Courtney, reawakened his passion for hospitality by offering him the chef position at a wine bar she planned to open with a partner, Kimberly Bernosky.
Noble Rot opened in 2002 and immediately struck a chord with Portland diners. Courtney Storrs and Bernosky created a smart wine list featuring interesting glass and bottle options plus “flights”: three wines organized by a theme. Leather Storrs presented a creative, seasonal menu that eclipsed the standard wine bar offerings of sad cheeses and olives. Critical acclaim was swift and glowing. Noble Rot received Willamette Week’s Restaurant of the year in 2004. Even the New York Times visited Noble Rot calling Storrs “extremely cool.” He believed it.
Puffed up, and eager to create his own vision, Storrs left Noble Rot in 2006 to open Rocket, an ambitious and very personal project. Driven by ego and intoxicated by “Molecular Gastronomy”, Storrs presented technology and pyrotechnics at the expense of flavor. Portland was not impressed, critical reaction was devastating and the restaurant closed in 2008. Once again Courtney Storrs, now his wife, rescued Leather from the ashes. They hatched a plan to move Noble Rot to the Rocket location, making Bernosky and the Storrs’ equal partners.
Noble Rot is now on the fourth floor of a LEED platinum building, the apex of environmental design. The restaurant has an unobstructed view West at the city of Portland. The rooftop features a 3000 square foot garden irrigated by an aquifer beneath the building. The menu has evolved to feature this produce, greater entrée options and a full bar. Storrs is wiser, happier and humble.
An Oregon native, Leather grew up gardening grudgingly, but an interest in food and his experience at Chez Panisse (head lettuce washer!) gave Storrs a deep appreciation for the influence that top quality raw materials have on a finished dish. The rooftop at Noble Rot epitomizes this connection. Storrs tends the garden and he continues to steward the kitchen at Noble Rot (named Sunset magazine’s wine bar of the year for 2009). He and his wife/partner/muse Courtney have two children, Rye and Charlotte, the best things he’s ever made.
As the evolution from young turk to savvy veteran continues, Storrs fills his spare time with gentler pursuits. He is an avid mushroomer, leading groups on hunts for morels, oyster mushrooms, porcini and chanterelles. He cherishes Noble Rot’s season tickets to his beloved Portland Trailblazers. He enjoys teaching and writing about food and he aspires to a career in television. In addition to many appearances on local stations, Storrs recently competed on, and won, an episode of “Extreme Chef” on the Food Network.