Justin Wills was born and raised a world away from his current home on the Oregon Coast. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, he was more likely to eat pork than foraged edibles. But by 12, Wills knew he wanted to be a chef, and at 17 he was enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. Today, as chef/co-owner of Restaurant Beck, overlooking Whale Cove in Depoe Bay, Wills has quickly risen to the top ranks of Oregon’s food scene. Here are a few of his tips for exploring his part of Oregon:
Start your day:
Try Kristina’s Specialty Stuffed French Toast at the Beach Dog Café in Lincoln City, then rent some crab traps and toss them in nearby Siletz Bay.
Marché in Eugene is a state treasure, and founder Stephanie Kimmel has been a leader in Oregon’s culinary scene since the 1970s. Anything from their wood-fired oven is worth the trip.
The only thing more stunning than the ocean views at the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B in Yachats is their seven-course Oregon Bounty breakfast.
Grab your camera:
My hometown of Depoe Bay is like a postcard, from the fishing boats heading out of the world’s smallest harbor to the crashing waves of Whale Cove right out my window.
Meet the maker:
As a chef, I visit local farms or go foraging to really see and handpick the products I use. One of my favorites is Barking Dog Farms, a short beautiful drive up the Siletz River near Salishan.
You’ve gotta see this:
I love to hike with my family around Drift Creek Falls in the Coast Range west of Lincoln City. Look closely in the autumn and you might spot some Chanterelles peeking out of the forest floor.
A treat worth driving out of your way:
On the way back to Portland, veer off at McMinnville and drop in at Thistle. Chef Eric Bechard sources everything local and his preparations are divine.
Want some inspiration to help create your own tasty trail? Download our Trails To Feast booklet featuring seven culinary paths throughout Oregon.
By Greg Robeson and Justin Willis for Travel Oregon