Culinary Director Gregory Gourdet
DEPARTURE PORTLAND & DEPARTURE CHERRY CREEK
Gourdet is the trendsetting, Culinary Director for Departure Restaurant, a forward-thinking, pan-Asian restaurant with locations in Portland and Cherry Creek, CO.
Gourdet was a pre-med student with a Mohawk when he discovered a passion for cooking. The Mohawk stuck with him, but Gourdet made the leap from medicine to menus and secured a coveted internship at the prestigious Jean-Georges Restaurant Empire, eventually working his way up to Sous Chef at Jean-Georges. Later, as Chef de Cuisine at modern Chinese eatery, Restaurant 66, Gourdet cultivated an affinity for the Asian cuisines and flavors for which he is known at Departure.
A dedicated marathon runner, Bikram yoga devotee, and triathlete, Gourdet brings his health-mindedness to the table as well, offering delicious gluten-free, vegan, and paleo menus to guests at Departure.
Executive Chef Khamla Vongsakoun
DEPARTURE CHERRY CREEK
Executive Chef Khamla Vongsakoun brings over 15 years of experience to Denver’s Departure Denver, flaunting his nuanced mastery of Pan-Asian cuisine. The chef embraces the traditional roots of Departure’s dishes, modernizing them through technique and presentation while preserving cultural authenticity. Street fare, classic staples, sushi, and more flow from Vongsakoun’s kitchen with grace and wisdom developed through experience in hotel dining and alongside legendary chefs.
Vongsakoun’s career took off in 1997, when he traded Colorado wilderness for Las Vegas glamour, joining Rio Suites Hotel, Casino, and Spa as sous chef for the upscale Buzio’s Seafood Restaurant and, later, for the property’s Cajun-themed Voodoo Café, supporting the kitchens of the hotel’s five restaurants plus its pool, employee dining, and banquet facility.
After six years in Vegas, Vongsakoun relocated to the East Coast, starting as sous chef for the Metropolitan Café in Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel, Casino, and Spa and eventually earning a promotion to executive banquet chef by mid-2004. In 2006, Vongsakoun ascended within the property yet again, joining Michael Mina, a James Beard Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America inductee, to open Seablue. Working in Mina’s restaurants molded the young chef’s perceptions of how to run a kitchen with passion while maintaining high standards and always striving towards culinary discovery.
Vongsakoun first mastered Far East cooking techniques as sous chef for Stephen Starr’s Buddakan, a contemporary Asian restaurant in Philadelphia. Opting to focus his career on the region, Vongsakoun soon found himself executive chef for Michael Schulson’s Sampa, which earned a spot among Bon Appétit’s “Top 6 Best New Modern Asian Restaurants 2011” during his tenure. He subsequently worked as executive chef at Kittichai, a modern Thai restaurant within the boutique 60 Thompson Hotel in SoHo. Following Kittichai, Vongsakoun worked at Chelsea’s Tao Downtown, a trendy Pan-Asian restaurant with over $30 million in annual revenue.
Now back on his home turf, the chef’s acutely honed Asian specialty, proven in high-volume restaurants, finds an inspiring home within the kitchen of Departure Cherry Creek, where he prepares genuinely rooted and artfully plated Pan-Asian dishes.
Vongsakoun and his wife reside in the Denver enclave of Glendale, where they enjoy cooking at home and exploring the city’s rapidly evolving culinary landscape. In his spare time, the chef typically finds himself on one of Denver’s many golf courses or hiking the Rocky Mountain trails.