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Pazzo Ristorante's Executive Chef John Eisenhart

There are two prosaic stories as to what led John Eisenhart to Pazzo. The first involves the strawberry and bean fields of his native Nebraska, where young John acquired a lifelong appreciation of fresh produce. The other, more credible story, involves a car. A slightly older John was a high school student in Sonoma, California and needed an after- school job in order to buy a '65 convertible Mustang. Washing dishes got him into the kitchen of a local pizzeria, and once in the kitchen something clicked. Possessing both a Mustang and a calling, John enrolled in San Francisco's California Culinary Academy, and then graduated to the fabled kitchens of San Francisco's Aqua and Masa's, and New York's La Grenouille. Having gained a notoriety of his own, John earned the coveted position of Sous Chef at Babbo and the chance to study at the clogs of Mario Batali. It was Batali who sent John on a yearlong culinary tour through Italy, training with the top chefs in Lucca, Venice and Alba. More importantly, John learned that the slower pace of life in Italy was in his blood, and he would no longer be able to live in New York. His reputation allowed him to choose his spot, and John chose Portland. He liked the people, the pace and the fresh local produce of Oregon. And unlike Manhattan, there was always a place to park your hot rod.

John became the Executive Chef at Pazzo in 2003. He describes his style as "clean and simple... high quality ingredients used in an intelligent way." He also doesn't like doing the same thing over and over, so Pazzo patrons are encouraged to check back often to see what kind of tasteful adventures he's getting into.

John's local inspiration goes beyond the Pazzo kitchen, where he's been active in community building events and organizations such as the Oregon Humane Society, p:ear, a non-profit foundation mentoring homeless children, and Cooking with Kids classes benefiting the Morrison Family and Child Services Center of Portland.