I Live Here: Mike Thelin

Name & Age: Mike Thelin, 34

Hometown: Scappoose

Current Neighborhood: Goose Hollow

How do you pay the rent and what is your slash? I’m a food journalist (Not like that’s a way to pay rent). I occasionally write magazine articles, and I contribute to television shows—like Unique Eats on the Food Network’s new Cooking Channel. Mainly I plan big food, wine, spirits, and cooking festivals and events around the country. Some are small—private dinners for 20 people. Some are large—I’ve been putting together a wine festival in Texas for 9,000 people. I love what I do.

What do you create? I like to think I create community and common ground through food. I create food events large and small. I help with programming, I find the money, I bring in the talent, and I try to get everyone playing together and having fun. Humans will never agree on geo-politics, philosophy, religion, or taste in music, but just about everyone loves great food. I’m constantly amazed by the diplomatic powers of good food and drink, and I’m fortunate to have carved out a path that allows me to create opportunities for others to experience the same. Plus food is a big business, so as long as people stay hungry and interested in having new experiences, I’ll always have job security.

How did you land in Portland? I keep coming back. I’ve lived all over—from Montana to San Francisco to DC to Ireland. I moved back to Portland in 2002, then moved to Spain a few years later but landed back here in 2006. Something keeps drawing me back. Oregon is in my blood. My grandparents were born here.

What is the last book you read? The Food of France by Waverly Root.

Name your favorite tattoo. The one that isn’t on my face.

What was the last thing you ate at a food cart? Chicken and rice with ginger sauce from Nong’s on 11th and Alder. Nong has found god in a single dish, and it’s so perfectly simple. I co-wrote the Best Restaurants guide for Portland Monthly in 2009, and we included her food cart in the city’s top ten restaurants for the year. This stuff is that good—the best six dollars you’ll ever spend.

Oregonian, Willamette Week, or Mercury? When I have time, I read the Willamette Week when I want to know what’s going on and The Mercury when I want to laugh. I miss Patrick Coleman’s food column in The Mercury.

What is your favorite bridge and why? I love the Fremont Bridge. It’s a giant relic of a time when civic projects and thinking were grandiose, and when public projects actually focused a little on architecture. We won’t fare nearly as well with Columbia Crossing.

Stumptown Coffee or _________? Not “Stumptown or.” It’s “Stumptown and” all of the superb micro-roasters it helped to inspire and develop in this city and elsewhere. Not only is the company true to its PDX roots, Stumptown has grown into one of the most recognized small artisan roasters in the country. When I’m served Stumptown at top restaurants like Animal in LA or Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC, it makes me proud to be from Portland.

Coast or Mountains? Not having to choose is one of the best reasons for living here.

Only in Portland moment? I was lectured by a barista for using an American Express card the other day. They apparently charge too high of a transaction rate. In the end, I (and my frequent flyer miles) won the debate. If it’s bothersome, don’t accept AMEX in the first place.

A favorite local business? I love Cacao on 13th and Washington or in the Heathman Hotel. The staff is so great, and Portlanders have no idea how lucky they are to have such a world class chocolate shop. It’s better than any I’ve ever been to.

Are you a car person or a bike person? I went five years without a car, but now I drive everywhere when it rains.

If you could change one thing about Portland, what would it be? We need to create more opportunities for small businesses, and I’m not talking about lowering taxes. The tax burden in Portland is relatively low compared with its peers. I’m talking about real economic development opportunities that help local businesses grow ideas into employment opportunities. There are too many talented people here who are underemployed.

And finally, where can we find you on the web? Follow me on Twitter @mikethelin. My colleagues tell me I need to tweet more, so maybe having more followers will inspire me to do so.

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