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Grand Cru Hospitality - Our Food Partner

Interview with Alex Chong and Patrick Miller 

Where is your business located? 

Our kitchen and office are located on Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy in Southwest Portland. However, as caterers, we really are everywhere.

What do you do for Hammer & Stitch? 

Grand Cru Hospitality is contracted by H&S to operate the kitchen and manage all aspects of their foodservice program. Our main priority in this partnership is to make honest-high quality food that matches the vision of H&S. 

When did you start Grand Cru and what inspired you to open a hospitality business?

In 2012, Alex and Patrick were working together at a restaurant called 50 Plates. Patrick was the Head Chef and Alex was his Catering Chef. Ultimately, the restaurant owners made the decision to close and sell the restaurant. Upon this decision, Alex and Patrick partnered up to create Grand Cru Hospitality. We began humbly, running the lunch counter inside the well-known Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency with just one other employee. We are now nearly through our eighth year of business, and employ a wonderful team of about 50 employees. 

How did you decide on the name? 

Grand Cru is a term used by winemakers and brewers indicating their finest offering. This resonated with us very much. We also went with “Hospitality” over “Catering,” because we wanted to put an emphasis on service and experience. Also, we knew that one day we may get back into restaurants.

What is your favorite part of being a hospitality company?

Sharing a meal bridges cultures, communities, neighbors and friends. We love seeing the smiling faces of our guests when they enjoy what we have prepared. Food and drink are fun! We try to carry this feeling of caring hospitality into the restaurants and cafés we manage as well.

What is the best part of being a part of someone’s event? 

Helping our clients fulfill their vision, and witness firsthand the joy they feel when everything comes to life, is the best. Great food and drinks are a special way to bring people together through conversation and celebration. Gatherings seem even more special right now considering everything that is happening in the world.

You guys run counters and restaurant spaces, as well as the hospitality arm of your business. What are some of the challenges of each? What are some of the best parts? 

The best part is our team of course. We are lucky to have extremely loyal, hardworking and dedicated individuals. I think one of the biggest challenges for us, like many other companies, would be communication. It is challenging but incredibly important for us to be in constant communication with each location and each team. We need to ensure that the teams are well supported, so they can consistently deliver Grand Cru quality and care. 

How did you decide on the menu for Hammer & Stitch? 

The menu for Hammer & Stitch was designed to be approachable, delicious and value driven. We wanted to keep the menu small to ensure items are always impeccably fresh and continually changing based on the time of year. We also wanted to make sure that we were cooking food that spoke to those that live and work in the Slabtown neighborhood.

What is your dream event to plan and execute? 

Any event that allows us to have full creative freedom is a dream event. In particular, we’d love to plan a Trailblazer get together. Maybe Damian Lillard’s New Year’s Eve Party? Call us, Dame! 

The present state of things has been really rough on small business in general. How have you guys restructured/adapted? 

We are fortunate to have a strong community presence. So many people have reached out to support us during this time. Grand Cru adapted and created a new program in spring 2020 called Family Meal. Family Meal is a beautiful tradition in restaurants, where the entire staff takes a very rare break and enjoys a quick meal together before service. We wanted to generate that same camaraderie and love within our greater community. Our program is designed to bring joy and happiness to all families during this uncertain time. 

What is the most important tool a chef uses?

Time management. It is paramount to an effective kitchen that the chef has command of what tasks need to be completed for a successful service. Also, the chef needs to manage all of the cooks to ensure quality and efficiency. 

What is the most important ingredient in a kitchen? 

Well, it would be pretty hard to find a more ubiquitous ingredient than salt. Salt helps to preserve and enhance flavors of ingredients. However, if you don’t put love into the food you are preparing, then it just won’t ever reach its full potential. So, we have concluded that Salted Love is the most important ingredient of our kitchen. 

Butter or lard and why?          

That’s a tough one, but we would choose salted butter. Butter is a pretty magical ingredient, and it has more applications than lard. Final answer, we choose salted butter because it’s always yummy!

MSG, yes or no?

We rarely use it in our food, but it really comes down to the application. Certain cuisines utilize it to enhance flavors and create an umami taste experience. For example, in Chinese cuisine they utilize it in Salt and Pepper Shrimp. So, if it is traditionally utilized to create an authentic experience, then we would probably stick to tradition.     

Sweep the leg or karate chop?

Breaks my heart because I grew up watching Karate Kid on repeat…but sweep the leg because Cobra Kai uniforms are awesome! But, Johnny is a punk and we don’t support bullies!

Ale or Lager? 

Well you can’t spell Alex without ale! Alex is an ale man and Patrick is a lager guy for sure. That being said, we both appreciate a good pint of most styles. We heard through the grapevine that H&S will be opening up with an IPA and a Lager. Which team will you choose? 

What does the future look like for Grand Cru? 

Well, to be honest, at the moment the future is a little unknown. Like most businesses that have gone through the COVID era, we are waiting to see what “normal” looks like when we are all through this. We are optimistic and excited to adapt and keep pushing forward. We are thrilled to be partners with Hammer & Stitch Brewing Co. We feel that culturally our two companies are a great fit, and we cannot wait to open and serve our community!

Finally, if you could go back in time, what is the one piece of advice you'd give yourself, based on what you know now? 

I would advise myself not to take everything so seriously. As I’ve matured, my perspective has shifted dramatically. I think inevitably, when you have kids your priorities shift. I would tell myself to laugh more, be in the moment, and soak in special time with your family and friends. Time is a precious commodity, and I think it is important to make the most of every moment.


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