March 27th, 2019

Red Hills Kitchen: Great food with a dash of kindness

Jody Kropf is excited. He can’t stop grinning as he talks about his new restaurant, Red Hills Kitchen.

Kropf, well known to local foodies for his successful Red Hills Market in nearby Dundee, opened his new venture this March inside the luxury Atticus Hotel. The executive chef and owner is enthusiastic bordering on exhilarated about what he and his team are adding to the already compelling McMinnville food scene.

Red Hills Kitchen, located at 530 NE Fourth St., is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Stop in and you likely will find Kropf, the executive chef as well as owner, hard at work. He slowed down for a few minutes recently to talk about Red Hills Kitchen and what he aims to accomplish.

Q: Why did you open Red Hills Kitchen?

Jody Kropf, Red Hills Kitchen

Kropf: “About two years ago the (Atticus Hotel) owners group approached me to do it. I fell in  love with what they were doing but I didn’t have enough people in place and the timing was not right for me. Now I’m in a much better place. I realized the success of the hotel is going like they said it would be, so I felt like this was such a good spot for us and a good chance for me to grow a little bit, expand a little bit. Everything all went together.”

Q: What does Red Hills Kitchen add to the McMinnville food landscape?

Kropf: “Well, for one thing, it allows me to show a different culinary side with more skilled dishes and it allows me to do a little more fine dining. It’s just showing a little different side of hospitality than Red Hills Market. This also allows us to touch McMinnville.”

“I’m excited to be here in this environment because I feel like McMinnville is about ready to take another jump forward like you saw maybe seven, eight years ago. We have new players and new talent in this area. I’ve been putting out the word and telling people ‘let’s go, let’s do some more things.’ I feel like culinarily it’s my responsibility as a restaurant owner and chef to be working with everyone to keep bringing our town up.”

Q: How do you want your guests to feel while dining at Red Hills Kitchen? What can they expect?

Kropf:  “In a nutshell, great food with amazing wine and kindness. I want people to feel community, warmth, love, all the best wines, everything and also the feel like this where they can hang out. Our restaurant is built around food and service, but we also want people to feel comfort and acceptance when they come through the doors. That’s how Red Hills Market has always been. It’s something I got from my parents and it’s in my core. The wine and service are so important but to me the most important thing is how people are treating the public feel when they’re there.”

Q: What is your plan for locally sourcing food?

Kropf:  “We’re working as much as possible to have farmers actually grow for our upcoming menus. We want to find businesses that really align with our core values of taking care of people. We’re always moving that direction.”

Q: How does your relationship with local farmers help you create menus?

Kropf:  “It’s a complete open canvas. It gets them excited because they’re not just hoping somebody buys what they grow. We’re saying ‘I like the crunch of Little Gem Lettuce in my burger. Can you grow those for us?’ and they’re like ‘absolutely’ so I know going into this summer I’m going to try to pull farms into growing these great lettuces. It gives them a little sense of security. We’re committing to them and they’re committing to us.”

Q: Describe the restaurant’s décor. What are you and your wife, Michelle, trying to say?

Kropf:  “We want guests to feel comfortable. (The interior design is) clean and comfortable and feels fresh. We left some of the things in the kitchen open. That’s why we haven’t spent a lot of time covering up the bar or the kitchen. We want to see the smiling faces behind the line making your food. It’s fun. That’s one of the reasons why we put the Josper oven right in the corner there. It’s so you can see the smoke and you see real fire happening.

“We want a lot of similarities (between the hotel and restaurant decors) and want to feel you’re not just stepping into another world. We want people to really feel that we were working with the hotel.”

Q: Last question. You smiled throughout this conversation. Why are you so happy?

Kropf:  “I’ve been working about 18 hours a day for the last three months, but I love it. This what I get to do. I’m fortunate that I get to go to a job that I love and with really cool people.”

Dan Shryock writes about cycling, coffee and travel throughout the Pacific Northwest. He’s always excited to discover a great restaurant along the way.