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.
General Manager Jason Gordon
DEPARTURE CHERRY CREEK
As general manager of Denver’s Departure Restaurant + Lounge, located adjacent to Cherry Creek’s Halcyon Hotel, Jason Gordon oversees the Modern Asian restaurant and lounge, a rooftop bar, as well as the Halcyon’s banquet and room services. Inspired by the inventive menu and beverage program, he applies his seasoned managerial expertise to ensure smooth operations that allow the cuisine to shine. His personal hospitality philosophy focuses on presenting each guest with a memorable and authentic dining experience, recognizing the strong emotions involved. “I remember where my wife and I went on our first date, the restaurant I choose for the night of our engagement, and the restaurant we went to when I found out she was pregnant with our son,” he says. “The idea that people opt to share these important nights with us is awe-inspiring, and we never lose sight of that.”
Value for the individual experience informs his leadership tactics as well. “We often spend more time with the people we work with than our own loved ones,” Gordon explains, “so the work experience needs to be empowering, productive, and healthy.” He does his part to hire passionate people, act as a mentor, and create a rewarding environment for the entire staff.
As a child growing up in Columbus, OH, Gordon often assisted his mom in the kitchen, where she honed and showcased her exceptional cooking and baking skills. His father, too, provided early inspiration by taking the family all over the country to sample the best restaurants of the time. These youthful experiences offered valuable juxtaposition, eventually influencing Gordon’s approach to hospitality management, marrying elevated standards with a welcoming outlook.
Gordon learned how to engage and captivate his clientele while working at Boca Café during his time as a student at the University of Cincinnati in the mid-1990s. Chef and Owner Dan Reis served as a mentor for Gordon, teaching him how to deliver exceptional service in a vibrant environment. After graduating from school in 1999, Gordon took the knowledge he gained from Reis and moved to Denver to serve and manage restaurants for nearly 12 years. After ascending the ranks in a classic fish house and a AAA Four Diamond European restaurant, he worked for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants for six years as manager and, later, assistant general manager at Northern Italian eatery Panzano within the Hotel Monaco.
Sticking with Kimpton when he moved to Portland, OR, in 2012, Gordon ran several outlets connected to the Hotel Vintage Plaza, and thrived in the fast-paced position managing Pazzo Ristorante. After earning Kimpton’s Integrity Award in 2013, he rose to the role of city manager, expanding his reach to include Red Star Tavern and a total of thirteen managers and more than 150 employees. In 2017, when the general manager post opened at Departure Denver, Gordon jumped at the chance to return to the city where he met and married his wife, and to oversee the dynamic, immersive dining destination. Outside of work, Gordon enjoys reading, traveling, and dreaming about his family’s next adventures.