Lunch at Coquine in Portland. ##Photo by Carly Diaz

The Rise of Coquine

Chef Katy Millard continues inspiring culinary climb

By Mark Stock

Since its founding in 2015, Coquine has garnered quite the list of accolades. It’s enough to make any other restaurant at least somewhat envious.

Portland Monthly dubbed Coquine a “Rising Star” a few years ago. Both Esquire and Bon Appétit have named the place one of the best new restaurants in the nation. In 2016, The Oregonian named the Mt. Tabor joint its “Restaurant of the Year.” And a year later, Coquine was nominated for a James Beard Award, specifically “Best Chef: Northwest.”

So how has Coquine captured so much recognition in a city stuffed with standout dining options? Great food and service practically go without saying, but the meat of the matter resides in a strong crew, mindful menu items and deftness in the kitchen.

Chef/co-owner Katy Millard has worked at acclaimed restaurants like Coi in San Francisco and Maison Troisgros in France. Her intro to the culinary realm started in high school, working restaurant jobs, which she continued through college, between classes earning a degree in hospitality business management.

“The decision to pursue becoming a chef came after college,” Millard says. “I went backpacking through Europe after I’d graduated and had a meal in Paris that changed my perspective.”

Katy Millard ##Photo by Joshua Chang

She didn’t leave. Millard remained in Paris for a couple years, working as a cook. Next, she traveled to the south of France for a similar stint. “My husband and I dreamed up our ideal restaurant and work environment, and we spent three years working toward opening doors,” she says. “The path to open was full of cooking farm dinners and pop-ups and jumping at every opportunity we could to show diners what Coquine was all about.”

Millard’s husband, Ksandek Podbielski, is a co-owner of the restaurant and its wine director. He tweaks the wine side of the menu about as often as the food, managing a truly eclectic glass pour list. Podbielski formerly worked at Anne Amie Vineyards in Carlton, overseeing events and helping establish gatherings like Counter Culture, which recently celebrated 10 years. After Anne Amie, he worked at seafood-centric Roe in Portland.

Coquine’s impressive wine list features bottles and half-bottles from all around the globe. There’s an impressive cast of Oregon Chardonnays, Gamay Noirs and Burgundies and lesser-knowns, such as Analemma Mencia from the Columbia Gorge and The Eyrie Vineyards’ Trosseau. Noteworthy cider and beer selections are also available.

Older vintages of Austrian Gewürztraminer, aged Alsace, Old and New World Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir from around the world, and plenty of gorgeous Italian and French reds. By-the-bottle local selections presently feature the likes of Helioterra, Beckham Estate, Love & Squalor, Walter Scott, Division Wine Co. and many more.

“The only rule that is always true, all the time, in pairing food and wine is that ‘there’s always an exception,’” she says. “I think about how food will taste with wine, and I cook with the knowledge that the wine people drink and the food people eat will have an effect on each other.”

A café by day and restaurant come evening, Coquine feels unassuming in its lovely residential neighborhood. Millard prepares all the ingredients, including handmade pasta, with an impressive deftness that makes each dish appear seamless. Chilled almond soup, sugar snap peas with shaved Tokoy turnips, tagliatelle with rabbit ragu and milk-braised pork Sugo are just a few intoxicating examples. The restaurant offers multiple-course tasting menus with optional wine pairings as well.

“We work to make people comfortable, to exceed expectations and to remain humble in doing so,” Millard says of Coquine’s approach.

Her culinary inspiration comes from a variety of places. Millard finds it in travel, books, gardening, hiking and simply talking about food with her husband. While the French influence is most obvious, the chef says she is also moved by the cuisines of Japan, California, Portugal, South Africa, Italy and the southeastern U.S. The varied list is partly owed to her upbringing, spanning places like Rhodesia, Zimbabwe and Alabama. Coquine greatly embraces Northwest ingredients but does so in a fairly worldly way, a major part of its intrigue. The restaurant finds harmony in a sweet spot between classic dining and the unexpected.

Five years isn’t a long time but it’s getting to be, at least in the Portland restaurant world. In a city where good food is available in just about every building, Coquine’s rise to acclaim is all the more impressive. It’ll be fun to see what the talented duo of Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski bring to the table next.

When asked how a diner should approach Coquine on their first visit, Millard offers a straightforward answer: “Let us take care of you.”

Perfect Tomato and Sheep’s Cheese Tartine with Corn Relish

“Tomato season is so fun! Here’s a home version of a dish we have on the menu right now.” —Chef Millard


2 sweet corn cobs

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 medium sweet onion, diced roughly size of corn kernels

1 teaspoon fresh Oregano, chopped (or other fresh herbs)

2 tablespoons Spanish olive oil

* salt and pepper, to taste

Crusty bread

Heirloom tomatoes

Sheep’s cheese (or burrata or stracciatella)


Corn Relish: Sweat onion and garlic over low heat, until tender and translucent. Add oregano. Add corn and sauté for 1 minute, just until corn is warmed through. Pull from heat. Dress with olive oil and season to taste. Makes six servings. Assembly: On a ¾-inch thick slice of crusty bread, spread a generous layer of fresh sheep’s cheese. Slice an heirloom tomato into ½-inch slices and season properly with salt. Layer them on top of the cheese and grind a good bit of pepper on top. Pile corn relish on tomato and eat with a fork and sharp knife.


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