What's NOT on My Resume: Gabriel Rucker

By Kathleen Squires  |  November 21, 2013

No one starts out on top, especially in the food business. In this weekly column, chefs and restaurateurs across the country share the stories of their humble beginnings.

Portland’s culinary scene is flying high these days thanks to the gaggle of talented chefs that have descended upon the City of Roses. And in a city rife with gifted chefs, two-time James Beard Foundation Award winner Gabriel Rucker wows the crowd with sophisticated and comforting dishes such as glazed eel with unagi custard at his restaurants Le Pigeon and Little Bird. It all started for Rucker, however, in the Bay Area with bagels.

“My first job was one of my favorites: I was in high school and I worked at a bagel shop called Kirk & Glotzers New York Bagels,” Rucker, who just released the Le Pigeon cookbook, remembers. “I liked learning how to make the bagels and I had a blast doing it.” Rucker enjoyed it so much that he didn’t mind the early-morning hours. In fact, his workday conveniently worked right into his partying schedule. “At that time in my life, I was staying up all night and going to raves in San Francisco. So I would stay up all night and drive to work from the rave. I’d show up with my big baggy pants on and make the bagels and then go home and go to bed.”

The rave days are now in his past, and though his memories of the party scene may be foggy, Rucker remembers every detail from his bagel gig. “It taught me basic skills such as how to use a knife and a slicer, and how to clean a slicer. We were even making cream cheeses and it was the first time I ever used yeast,” the chef says. “Watching that process happen was pretty neat, and just being in that kind of environment at a young age was very beneficial.”