12 Days of Holiday Food Memories: Naomi Pomeroy Was So French at Christmas

We asked a dozen food world luminaries to help us count down the next 12 days with culinary nostalgia, and they gave us their favorite stories of supermarket eggnog, standing rib roasts, discounted candy, and lots of cheer. Enjoy, and happy holidays!


Photo credit: Getty. Lettering: Brian Kaspr.

Naomi Pomeroy is the chef-owner of acclaimed Portland, OR restaurant Beast. Not only did she increase her celebrity while competing on “Top Chef Masters,” she’s also the sort of person to go volunteer in Myanmar for a while. Here she talks duck au vin, shabby chic, and her mom’s enduring culinary legacy. 

My stepmom and dad lived in Seattle; my Mom and I lived in Corvallis, Oregon. Christmas Day brunch was always at my dad’s house, because my mom was sort of more of a Christmas Eve person.

My mom lived in France for a little bit when she was little; she was a military brat. From when she was eight to 12, they lived in rural France. We had duck a lot Christmas Eve—something that none of my friends ate, like, ever, growing up. She would cut it into quarters; sear; braise; wine. You know, coq au vin. Duck au vin! She taught herself using cookbooks, Julia Child…same as me, that’s what I did. I taught myself to cook based on cookbooks.

I grew up in such a strange way. We had no money—we were on like Federal assistance, we didn’t even have a car for most of my childhood—but still [my mother] was making these dishes that seemed so fancy. But they weren’t! Because duck and oxtail were like the cheapest things that she could get. Nobody ate that stuff!

She got the best plates at Goodwill. She made all of our napkins… Shabby chic before shabby chic was cool.

I started out in the kitchen with her as a really young child, I learned to cook things really early on. Being inside by the stove are all of my early childhood memories, learning how to make soufflé…

For Christmas Eve dinner, seriously we were like such a French-influenced family that I swear to God we ate at like 9 o’clock. I don’t remember ever eating before 8.

Usually it was just the two of us. Our house was crooked: this old, falling-down thing…but we’d always light candles, and like, wine—not a lot of wine, but she would have a glass of wine every night. It wasn’t like a big party, just very refined. It was relaxing. That’s how I think of cooking. It was never stressful at my house. It was just me and my mom.