Executive Chef, Imperial and Portland Penny Diner
Paley’s was and always will be family to me. I come from a tight knit family and it’s so important.” Chef Ben Bettinger has always had a place in the Paley family – and now returns to collaborate with Chef Vitaly Paley once again as the Executive Chef at Imperial and Portland Penny Diner. Spending the last four years developing his culinary skills at popular Portland restaurants Clyde Common and Beaker and Flask, he looked inward to develop a personal style of his own. Bettinger is eager to bring his knowledge and fresh perspective into the kitchen at Imperial to reconnect with Paley in a dream team collaboration. At Imperial the duo will revisit classic Americana dishes, rediscover Pacific Northwest culinary pathways and follow in the footsteps of Oregon’s own James Beard.
Betttinger’s family moved to the West coast in 1996, and when he decided to join them in November of 2000, he made a detour in Portland, Oregon and fell in love instantly. By January, he was registered at Le Cordon Bleu’s Western Culinary Institute where he graduated with highest honors in 2002. His dedication and leadership in school lead to an opportunity to intern under esteemed Chef Vitaly Paley at Paley’s Place, where Bettinger developed strong French technique and learned the importance of using local and seasonal products.
In the fall of 2004, Bettinger was promoted to Sous Chef of Paley’s Place, a position that offered a chance to develop as a kitchen leader and work with local farmers and purveyors. Over the next two years, the restaurant received many accolades, including Chef Paley’s James Beard award for Best Chef Pacific Northwest. 2006 found Bettinger promoted to Chef de Cuisine, while the notoriety of the restaurant continued to grow. That same year, Paley’s Place made the list of Gourmet magazine’s ‘Top 50 U.S. Restaurants,” and USA Today named their braised rabbit entrée one of the year’s ‘Top 25 Dishes.”
In 2008, after a prosperous tenure at Paley’s Place, Bettinger accepted the position as Executive Chef of a new restaurant, Beaker and Flask, which was to be opened by friend and colleague, Kevin Ludwig. That fall, while waiting for the new restaurant to open, Bettinger took a Sous Chef position at popular Portland restaurant Clyde Common, working alongside his friend, Chef Jason Barwikowski. Beaker and Flask opened in the summer of 2009, immediately garnering critical acclaim, including being named ‘Restaurant of the Year” by Willamette Week after only four months in business. Bettinger’s inventive take on modern European fare inspired by the seasons – ‘Euro-Portland Cuisine” as he calls it – won over the city.
While running his own kitchen, Bettinger remained close with the Paley’s, even serving as Paley’s Sous Chef in a victory against chef Jose Garces on Food Network’s Iron Chef America in 2011. In his new role at Imperial, he is excited to collaborate with Chef Paley again, as the two drive each other in an ultimate yin and yang relationship that is unmatched in the region.