Greg Denton and his co-chef and wife, Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton, may be two of Food & Wine magazine’s 2014 Best New Chefs, but the seasoned duo has been in the business of cooking great food for years. With Ox, their Portland-based, Argentina-influenced beef-centric restaurant, though, they have a place of their own, and a wood-fired grill at center stage where they can strut their stuff. Ox, was named The Oregonian’s 2013 Restaurant of the Year, and one of Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in 2012, the same year it opened. “An ox is an older, more mature animal,” Greg has said. “We think it fits us. We’re not young people, and this is not our first restaurant.”
Greg, who grew up in Rutland, Vermont, has said it was the gift of an Easy-Bake Oven when he was 4 years old that kick-started his love for cooking. He studied at Paul Smith’s College, in New York’s Adirondack region, as well as at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) before heading to another CIA—the Central Intelligence Agency—where he did an externship in the executive dining room at its Langley, Virginia, headquarters. Classical training followed, from the Refectory Room in Columbus, Ohio, to Hemingway’s in Killington, Vermont, and on, in 1999, to chef Hiro Sone’s acclaimed Terra, in St. Helena, California, where he met Gabrielle, and has been cooking with her ever since.
From 2002 to 2007, the Dentons explored Asian Pacific food—with Greg as executive chef at Maui’s Mala Ocean Tavern (where he even cooked for the Dalai Lama). Heading to Portland, the Dentons manned the stove at Lucier, and later at Metrovino, where their menu was built around an extensive wine list.
These days, amid the preparation of signature dishes such as clam chowder with smoked marrow bone, fire-seared short ribs, or house-made chorizo and morcilla, Greg has been a contestant on the Esquire Network’s Knife Fight, and he and Gabrielle are busy writing their first cookbook, to be called, aptly for this grill-loving pair, Around the Fire.