For Josh, Our Friend

So, Josh may have beat us to the punch, but we still have a couple of things we’d like to say about him as he readies himself to start a new life back in the old south. And blog readers, this will probably be the last time you get two blog entries so close together. In case you didn’t know, Josh wasn’t just our sous chef, but also our main blogger. Be sure to check out his personal blog, http://southernbelly.wordpress.com, so you can keep up with him. We will do our best on here to be half the blogger he is!

Because he is quiet and unassuming, people often underestimate him. We learned early on not to do that. First he came here and really took our coffee program to the next level. In his usual understated way, he managed to caress the smoothest, most perfect espresso shots out of our La Marzocco, and took 5th place in a Barista competition in Seattle, proving his mettle even more. But all the while he talked about how he really wanted to cook in the kitchen. It was easy to have faith in his convictions, because we knew that though he is a man of few words, those words were always carefully measured and devoid of any b.s. If he said he wanted to try his hand at kitchen work, we knew he meant to take it seriously. It took a while for us to get ready to up our food service, but when the time came, we went right to Josh to ask if he wanted to be a part of it.

From our humble start serving little more than soups and breakfast plates, Josh catapulted our menu into the stratosphere with a wide array of delicious and beautifully executed dishes that revealed his southern, French, and homestyle influences. His approach to it all is what we in the kitchen will miss the most about working with him – quiet, grounded, loving. It’s true – he puts a whole lot of love into his wonderful, simple food. You can taste it, and you can see it on the happy faces of the people eating it. The combinations he conjured up from our limited night kitchen were nothing short of magic.

The way he cooks and works is truly a reflection of who he is. Thoughtful, dependable, empathetic, and kind. Those of us lucky to work closely with him can tell you he is the guy you immediately feel like you’ve been cooking next to forever. Serious about his work but so laid back and hilarious in a very, very quiet and self-deprecating way. He was always so good at reading the moods of his co-workers, knowing just when to give us space, and when a listening ear was needed. He always works hard. He’s never too good to switch gears from chef to barista if he’s needed.  He will go on to great things, because talent like his, wrapped up in a hardworking, drama-free, overall good egg, is a rare and beautiful thing.

True to form, his goodbye to us came in the form of a feast – his fifth and final Portland Mardi Gras celebration. He zipped to and fro, tending to his giant pot of crawfish, checking in on the jambalaya, explaining muffeletta to the unindoctrinated. When he was sure everyone was taken care of, then he let loose with the rest of us. The laughter was punctured here and there with bits of sadness, and the sigh on everyone’s lips was the same: “We sure are gonna miss this guy.”

Fare thee well, Josh Casper. We’re so glad we got to work with you, even gladder that we get to call you friend. We’ll be sending you love and luck to go with you all along your way.

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