We partnered with with the team at Ned Ludd, a Portland restaurant that feels like home, to bring our Open Kitchen collection to life this season. Its cozy, casual vibe pairs perfectly with its rustic menu, which highlights peak-season produce and handcrafted, locally sourced ingredients. Read our interviews with the owners, chefs and partners behind Ned Ludd and try their original recipes here.
Michelle Battista moved to Portland 15 years ago and has remained inspired by the city ever since. With a background in branding, marketing and product consulting, she jumped at the chance to work in the culinary industry when a culinary footwear company hired her as a consultant. Today, she’s an integral part of the Ned Ludd team, both professionally (she handles marketing) and personally (she is Chef/Owner Jason French’s partner). We asked Michelle to talk about what inspires her about Portland, the Ned Ludd food philosophy and her top picks for an unforgettable 24-hour Portland food odyssey.
How did you get your start in food?
Well actually, I am not in the traditional food industry. I own a product consultancy called Blind Spot Design in Portland. We began 11 years ago in footwear. Now, we consult with clients on brand building and design and marketing for product lines. Since moving to Portland 15 years ago, I have been very interested in food. Two years ago an opportunity came up to work with a footwear brand out of Santa Barbara called Mozo. They were making shoes for culinary professionals at the time, so I jumped at the chance to work closely with chefs and restaurants while building product.
What is your food philosophy?
Food should be thoughtful. We should consider everything we put in our mouth each and every time we feed ourselves. It should be beautiful and delicious…simple and considered always.
What is the food philosophy at Ned Ludd?
Ned Ludd’s food is full of heart. The food is fresh and clean, simple and rustic, and always delicious. They do vegetables better than anyone. And all out of a small, wood-fired oven. I am constantly in awe of what they can do with the tools that they have. The menu is small because everything is there for a reason–it’s a very thoughtful menu. Jason and I share a similar ethos about the family table and feeding people. It’s a time to come together and engage in conversation about food, wine, life, love, and everything else.
What is your role at Ned Ludd? How did you start working there?
Jason’s inner voice? HA. Jason and I are partners in life. In business, I consult him on creative matters and help with marketing and PR, events and opportunities. It’s loose.
What’s your favorite part about working at Ned Ludd? Your favorite dish?
I love spending time in the space. It’s cozy and warm and feels nostalgic. It reminds me of my grandparents’ farmhouse in Galax, VA. Growing up, we would spend holidays there just huddled around a wood stove. Cooking and canning and enjoying food and craft together. It feels like that. We laugh a lot.
Do you cook at home on your days off? If so, what are a few of your go-to meals?
I cook every day. I have two girls, 5 and 7 years old, and they both love to eat. It’s fun to experiment with different ingredients and styles of cooking with them. They love to pitch in and are both very interested in food. Our go-to meals: soup. Lots and lots of soups. Elephant’s Deli in town does an Orange Tomato Soup that the girls love. Also, we cook a lot of Thai and Vietnamese-inspired meals with rice or noodles and lots of fresh vegetables.
What do you like most about the food scene in Portland?
I like that there is such an enormous amount of talent in this small town. And I love that people are creating new things every day and that their efforts are supported by the community.
What inspires you about living in Portland?
I have had the opportunity to travel around the world during my career and I have to say that creatively, it’s light years beyond other cities. The music, food, drink and art are so abundant and accessible. As a creative person, being surrounded by creativity every day is a gift.
If someone only had 24 hours in Portland, where would you recommend eating/going/shopping?
My favorite things to do…eat and drink:
Early coffee: Heart Roasters
Lunch: Olympic Provisions NW
Afternoon tea: Smith Teamaker
Happy hour: Rum Club
Late night drink: Victory Bar
And if someone gets through this itinerary in a day…kudos to you. I owe you a drink.
Describe your entertaining style. What are your favorite dishes to make for company?
Relaxed. Curated. I like to create a sense of place in the style of the food, the decoration and the table. I want guests to feel transported.
Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner: What’s your favorite meal of the day?
I love brunch. It’s casual and easy and sweet and savory. I love the mix of flavors and the relaxed ‘I don’t have to be anywhere’ vibe. Plus you get to drink Bloody Marys before noon. What could be wrong with that?
What’s for dinner tonight?
Jason made dinner for me and the girls. Roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and lots of spring vegetables…so excited for the farmers market!