Cathy Whims: PDX’s Italian mother


It’s no news that PDX is an incubator for the type of cooking that is both provenance-driven and worldly and while it is relatively chef-centric, it manages to never seem too full of itself. That balancing act is successful due in large part to Cathy Whims, chef and owner of Nostrana (with arguably the best Happy Hour in the area) Oven and Shaker and Hamlet, perpetual Portland favorites. Her cooking is the type one tucks into, never too rarified or precious, but satisfying deep down to the warm fuzzies.

What is your idea of a perfect meal?
Spaghetti with sea urchins, with my feet in the sand on the Amalfi coast.


What recipe still gives you goosebumps?
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Butter Sauce.

What cooking personality, living or dead do you most admire?
Faith Willinger, living. Marcella Hazan, dead.

What’s a style of cooking foreign to you that you wish you had down?

Which ingredients do you find yourself using the most?
Olive oil, garlic, wine, and Parmigiano-Reggiano

What was your biggest culinary disaster?
Toast. I always burn it. Rice, I can only make risotto.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi. What food do you dream of?
Piedmontese egg pasta tajarin with truffles and butter.

What’s your most treasured kitchen tool?
A travertine marble mortar lugged back by hand on a plane from Alba.

If you weren’t a chef, in what other occupation could you see yourself excelling? Fashion consultant.

Mario Batali has clogs. What’s your most marked characteristic?
Clic magnetic reading glasses.

What food do you hold in the lowest of regard?
Fast food and foie gras.

What is the quality you most like in a chef?
Respect for good quality ingredients and the ability to work collaboratively.

What is the quality you most like in a diner?
An open mind.

Chef Boyardee or Colonel Sanders?

Who or what inspires you?
Grandmothers in slippers cooking in trattorias in Italy.

How do you take your coffee?
Only espresso with or without foamed milk.

What food trend drives you batty?
Too much pork and disrespect for vegetables.

In-N-Out or Five Guys?
Neither, but I’d like to try In-N-Out one day.

Could you “beat” Bobby Flay?
Not inspired to try.

Do you prescribe to any kitchen superstitions?
I always throw salt over my left shoulder when I spill it.

What’s a childhood dish you loved that still sticks with you?
Just picked tomato and mayonnaise sandwich with salt and pepper on white bread. I used to eat these on a hot summer day sitting on the back stoop with my grandmother in North Carolina.

Biggest cooking fear?

What do you cook on your off days?
Heirloom Borlotti beans.

Go-to guilty pleasure food?

If you ate some poorly prepared blowfish sashimi and passed, what person or thing would you like to come back as?
Sophia Loren, or as the Italians call her, ‘La Loren’.

What is your catchphrase?
“It’s the best!”

Marcel Roost is a hyper-intelligent rooster who could out-write and out-cook the best of them. His love for haute cuisine is only matched by his hatred of Kentucky Colonels. When he's not heckling fusion chefs, he can usually be found at some high-end bar "singing the body Martini." He's anything but corn fed, despite being—well—corn fed.

Leave A Reply