Kitchen confidence

The duo behind Portland's Clarklewis restaurant

Five years ago, Michael and Naomi Hebberoy were working at two of Portland's finest restaurants, as a busboy and a dishwasher, respectively. Today, customers are calling from Tokyo and New York to make reservations at the couple's latest venture, Clarklewis, a restaurant that's propelled them to the top of several hottest-young-restaurateurs lists. But go back a few more years, and it doesn't seem like such a leap. Michael developed his palate while traveling the world with his mother and father (a cofounder of Oregon's landmark Salishan Spa & Golf Resort), following itineraries planned around food. And cookbookworm Naomi was soaking up the culinary sensibilities of her Southern grandparents and enhancing her mother's from-scratch meals by saucing everything in the fridge.

Their first venture was Ripe, a catering company. "We'd cook all day and deconstruct at night," Michael says. What evolved was a philosophy of food, the notion that "there's one thing that wants to be cooked today, one thing my farmers want to give me today," he says. After several Portland-area successes, including Family Supper and the Gotham Bldg Coffee Shop, the couple opened Clarklewis in partnership with chef Morgan Brownlow in February 2004, featuring exquisite seasonal Italian fare and pick-your-size plates. It's housed in an early-19th-century industrial loading dock overlooking Interstate 5.

Michael is the concept person, while Naomi is firmly grounded in the food. "That's probably why I work as obsessively as I do," she says. "It makes me sad to not have my hands in everything." —B.H.

Seasonal star

Clarklewis ($$$; closed Sun; 1001 S.E. Water Ave.; www.ripepdx.com or 503/ 235-2294)