Naomi was born and raised in Corvallis, Oregon. She spent her childhood hanging around the stove and in backyard gardens with her mother, who spent her early years in Rouen, France, and with grandmother Vivian, who hailed from New Orleans.
Before opening Beast, Naomi and Michael Hebb started up Ripe Catering in 1999 and soon thereafter launched an underground supper club in their Northeast Portland bungalow called "Family Supper." After a couple years of dodging authorities, using salvaged doors rigged as tabletops, and defrosting shrimp in the bathtub, they decided to go legit. In rapid succession, they opened the Gotham Coffee Shop (2002), Clarklewis (2004), and the Gotham Tavern (2005).
In the summer of 2007, after the Gotham Coffee Shop and Tavern had closed and Clarklewis had been sold, Naomi grabbed a former pantry cook and started up with small family-style suppers again. The intimacy of these suppers is preserved at Beast, a 24-seat restaurant where people can chat freely with each other at communal tables. Beast offers a six-course, prix-fixe, and service compris dinner twice nightly Wednesday through Saturday as well as two four-course brunch services every Sunday.
Beast opened September 27, 2007. The opening team was comprised of just two cooks, Naomi and Mika, and two servers, Daniel and Lisa. There was no dishwasher, nor were there prep cooks. For the first three years of the restaurant, there also was no hood or open flame. Everything at that time was cooked on two electric induction burners.
Despite these early hurdles, accolades and awards followed: Naomi was featured in Gourmet and Elle Magazine; Bon Appètit named her one of the top six of a new generation of female chefs in September 2008; and Food & Wine Magazine recognized her as one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America for 2009. In 2010, Oprah magazine named her one of the Top 10 Women to Watch in the Next Decade, and Marie Claire named her one of the top 16 Women in Business. She has given several lectures on creativity, including a TedX talk given in 2013. Naomi appeared as a contestant on Top Chef Masters in 2011. Naomi also appears as a recurring judge on Knife Fight on the Esquire Network.
Locally, Portland Monthly voted Naomi Chef of the Year in 2008. Beast was honored as Restaurant of the Year in 2008 by the Oregonian and chosen as best Brunch by the Willamette Weekly. Naomi has been the sole owner of Beast since 2009 when she paid back her investors.
In 2010, 2012, and 2013, she was selected as a finalist for the James Beard Awards in the category Best Chef Pacific Northwest. In 2014, she was selected as the recipient for this prestigious award.
Background photo by Alicia J. Rose; other photos by Dina Avila (unless otherwise noted).