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Cathy Whims

A lifelong learner and mentor of Italian cuisine, Cathy Whims is happiest when she’s sharing her love and knowledge of regional Italian culture through food, wine, travel, and writing. 

Her deep dive into the soul and psyche of Italian cooking started over 30 years ago at Genoa,  one of the first high-end, chef-driven, seasonally focused restaurants in Portland, Oregon. During her 18-year tenure, 10 of those years as chef/co-owner, Whims introduced Portland diners to both the nuances of Italian ingredients and the concept of sourcing locally.

Today, she continues to share her passion through her three Portland restaurants (Nostrana, Oven and Shaker, and Enoteca Nostrana), the culinary tours she leads in Italy and the cooking classes she hosts around the world. Her writing and recipes have been featured in numerous outlets including The Wall Street Journal and Eating Well and soon in the pages of her first cookbook, scheduled to debut in 2025.

Whims’ culinary philosophy is grounded in the way Italians weave food into the seasons, holidays, love, friendships and daily life. Similarly, Cathy has created personal relationships with numerous farmers and ranchers in the Pacific Northwest, as well as winemakers in Italy and at home, crafting a community that celebrates the good things in life that come when you sit with friends at a table. Her ability to follow the seasons, creating brilliant food that comes from the heart has earned her six James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef Northwest and is the guiding vision behind all of her restaurants. 

Cathy’s community building includes serving on the board of Scuola Italiana di Portland, a non-profit school for all ages that promotes Italian language and culture, as well as ongoing collaborations with The Culinary Breeding Network, an Oregon State University initiative that aims to bridge the gap between ‘breeders and eaters’ by improving agricultural and culinary quality in vegetables and grains. And for many years she served on the board of Slow Food Portland–the first chapter in the United States of Slow Food, the non-profit, member-supported organization founded in Italy in 1989 to counteract the culture of fast food. 

Cathy is the owner of  three Portland, Oregon restaurants: 

  • Nostrana (2006), her beloved flagship restaurant since 2006 that serves inventive regional Italian through the lens of seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients. Heralded  as one of the best Italian restaurants in the United States by Thrillist and Tasting Table, Best Pizza in Portland by Eater and Restaurant of the Year by The Oregonian in 2006, the year it opened.
  • Oven and Shaker (2012), an urban pizza and cocktail spot in Portland’s Pearl District, with a second location in Lake Oswego. Named one of the best places for pizza in Portland by Portland Monthly in 2022.
  • Enoteca Nostrana (2018), a gorgeous, modern wine bar and special events space with an award-winning wine list focused on small producers and creative bar programs. The 2018 Eater Portland Award winner for Design of the Year and a 2018 Portland Monthly Best New Restaurant.

Follow Cathy on Instagram @cathywhims.

Photo: John Valls

Cathy Whims’ Zucchini Pizza 

When summer gives you squash, slice it thin and put it on a pizza, as this Portland chef and restaurateur does.

May 8, 2024