Q&A with Kurt Huffman of ChefStable

Published April 27, 2022

Kurt Huffman

You may not recognize his face, but Kurt Huffman is a local legend. The founder and CEO of ChefStable, a company that works with chefs to open and operate restaurants, Huffman has played a key behind-the-scenes role in many nationally known Portland restaurants, including Pok Pok, Ox, and Lardo.

This year, ChefStable is a partner in two new PDX spots: Juliett, a stylish cocktail bar in Concourse E that honors female aviators, and the Concourse B location of Good Coffee, which is scheduled to open this summer. PDX sat down with Kurt to ask him for advice on opening a restaurant in the airport.

After helping to open and run so many restaurants in Portland, why are you excited to bring a project like Juliett to PDX?
The Portland airport is the gateway to our city and our state. For a native Oregonian like myself, it is a real privilege to be able to have a restaurant at PDX. I know how hard the airport works at having restaurants that are a true reflection of the city’s food scene, as opposed to the chains and national brands you see at other airports. To be able to contribute to this in some way is very special.

What are the top three things that local businesses should know about navigating the complexities of running a place at PDX?

  • It’s worth it for the brand exposure. Not only from passengers who [get to] know your brand, but for other opportunities at casinos, sports venues, and other airports. There are a lot of people who are looking for concepts to put into their larger operations, so the airport can be a wonderful platform to showcase your brand.
  • You need to make sure you allocate a larger opening budget that you would for a street location, especially if it is your first airport location. The learning curve is steep when it comes to understanding the particularities of the airport, including very early start times, staffing, and purveyors. It takes time, and thus money, to get a handle on it.
  • Get a very experienced architect. A great architect is going to help walk you through the process, but it is expensive. We have permitted and built over 60 restaurants in Portland and elsewhere, and the level of detail required for an airport permit is easily five times as much. 

Any other thoughts for restaurant owners who are considering this?
At the concept level, you need [a format that allows] you to be really fast. You want to have something that is engineered for speed and to balance that speed against keeping quality high.

Want to open your next location at PDX? Talk to us.