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Pok Pok restaurants close after death of celebrity chef Floyd Cardoz

Pok Pok announced on its Instagram Wednesday that it would be shutting down its restaurants.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Reacting to the death of his “compatriot” Floyd Cardoz, Pok Pok chef Andy Ricker announced Wednesday he would close all five of Portland’s Pok Pok and Pok Pok Wing restaurants, becoming the latest prominent Portland restaurant to reconsider offering takeout.

Cardoz, 59, died Wednesday of complications from coronavirus. The Mumbai-born chef, who operated restaurants in India and New York, was probably best known locally for his victorious run on the third season of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters,” where he competed against Naomi Pomeroy of Northeast Portland’s Beast. He visited Portland in 2013 for the second annual Feast Portland food festival.

“Floyd was a groundbreaking chef, an inspiration and mentor to many chefs and a kind human being," Ricker wrote in an email announcing the closure. “His loss should be a wake-up call to the restaurant community. We are all vulnerable.”

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On March 16, the day Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a ban on on-premises dining, Ricker announced that Southeast Portland’s Pok Pok, Northwest Portland’s Pok Pok NW and three locations of his fish sauce wing shack Pok Pok Wing would stay open for takeout and delivery. Two affiliated restaurants, Southeast Portland’s Whiskey Soda Lounge and Northwest Portland’s Ping Yang Pow, closed immediately. The combined closures impacted more than 150 employees.

“The fact is, there is no way to 100% safely deploy a crew of workers to operate a restaurant kitchen for delivery and to go as we have been doing for the last week,” Ricker wrote. “By nature, kitchens are close quarter operations and though we are trained to work cleanly and with great care to follow health code and have instituted a strict protocol around the pandemic, we are not trained to keep a workspace protected from a deadly virus.”

In closing, Pok Pok joins well-known restaurants including Beast, Eem, Magna, Screen Door and Berlu in changing tack after originally offering takeout.

“Pok Pok is a restaurant, not a hospital, not a fire station, not a police station, not a vital food delivery service," Ricker wrote. "I simply cannot bear the thought of one of our team becoming ill for the sake of preparing some chicken wings.”

This article was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.