Josh Dorcak’s vision of a restaurant that serves multicourse tastings of locally grown and foraged items was realized last May when he opened MAS, a pop-up in the basement of Mix Bakeshop on the Ashland Plaza.
A year later, he and business partner Luke VanCampen are preparing to open a permanent home for MAS at 141 Will Dodge Way, the alley running from Pioneer to Second street between Lithia Way and East Main Street in Ashland. The space formerly was occupied by Renu Hair Salon.
The pop-up accommodated limited seating for occasional dinners. Their new home will be open four nights a week, Thursdays through Sundays.
“We hope to launch in early May,” said Dorcak (pronounced Dor-Chak).
Fans of MAS can’t wait.
Fred Gold of Medford, owner of Wine-is-Art and with 45 years in the wine industry, dined at Dorcak’s MAS pop-up several times.
“MAS is one of the most exciting things to happen to the Southern Oregon food scene in many years,” Gold said. “Josh is wildly creative, extremely talented, and his passion for food shows not only in the presentation but also on the palate.”
Barbara Richard, a political consultant who lives in the Ashland area, agrees.
“Josh knows how to reveal the essence of each ingredient, whether it’s a carrot or a razor clam,” she said.
The set-up at the new MAS includes the chef counter, which seats eight, offering a 10-course menu of tastings for $110. The dining room seats 12 and will offer a six-course dinner for $65, as well as the signature 10-course tastings. Menus will change daily.
Dorcak is enthusiastic about the format.
“We serve different portions of proteins and vegetables, creating a gallery of what’s happening. We showcase what’s fresh and what’s available, food that is hyper local and even foraged,” he said. Seasonality is paramount.
Within those parameters, his tastings offer various flavors, temperatures, textures and bite sizes.
MAS has established relationships with several local growers, such as Blue Fox Farm and Ridgeline Meadows Farm, both in the Applegate Valley. These and other area farms provide seasonal produce and foraging opportunities.
“We also now have our own plot in Ashland’s community gardens on Hersey Street,” Dorcak said.
Having appreciated the opportunity to experiment as a pop-up, Dorcak and VanCampen will offer their space for other pop-ups on days MAS isn’t open.
“Blake Henry from the Brickroom will have a cocktail pop-up within MAS,” Dorcak said. “We’re inviting other local chefs to use our space to try out something new. We’re even going to do one ourselves, focusing on one thing, like fried chicken.”
Why the name MAS, which means “more” in Spanish?
“For one thing, it sounds cool,” Dorcak said. “Secondly, the restaurant is asking more from the guests and more from me as a creative chef, and more from the farmers and foragers.
“And in the philosophy of my cooking, less is MAS,” he said.
Dorcak, 32, won top chef honors at the Ashland Culinary Festival in 2015 and 2016. In 2017 he won the coveted Oregon Iron Chef title.
While attending the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he worked in various restaurants, working his way up the ranks. After a career in California at a two-star Michelin restaurant and in Arizona, he landed in Ashland, where he served several years as chef de cuisine at Amuse Restaurant. His focus at MAS is on the food.
VanCampen, 22, has worked with Dorcak for two years. He’ll assist Dorcak in the kitchen and front of the house, with a focus on systems.
Reservations will be taken online at exploretock.com/mas. You can find information about the restaurant and the chef, as well as a gallery of photos, at joshuadorcak.com.
After 8 p.m., MAS will offer an omakase experience at the counter where the chef will select and create a personalized menu for guests. Hours will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but diners are encouraged to call ahead. The MAS phone number is 541-581-0090.
Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.