Kitchen maestro Carlos Kalmar


Photo by Matthew D’Annunzio


His theme song could be Flight of the Bumblebee. The musical director of the Oregon Symphony is the artistic director of an orchestra and choir in Madrid and a music festival in Chicago, and is a frequent guest conductor throughout America, Asia and Europe. Raised in Uruguay and Austria, Kalmar feels at home anywhere in the world but is particularly comfortable in the kitchen of his Portland condo. “I am one with this kitchen,” he says. “I spend most of my time in the area surrounding the butcher block.”

Orchestrating dinner: “Being the music director of more than one orchestra is not so easy if you want to do it well. It is like cooking a good dinner. There are several wonderful things you want to listen to in classical music, and many wonderful things to eat, but they don’t necessarily go together. I love chocolate and I love fish. But I try not to put chocolate on a fish, if you know what I mean.”

Baton waving: When he first moved in, he imagined remodeling the place. “If I would decorate something, I would probably go for very straight lines and paint everything a dirty white. I realize now how beautiful and how warm this is. For me it is an amazing kitchen. I’ve always dreamed of having a stove with six ‘fire places.’”

The after party: “After concerts I hang out at my house. [There are] maybe 16 to 20 people, and everyone has a glass of wine. We do simple home cooking — pasta and two types of sauces. Those parties can go on until 2 o’clock.”

Encore: “I can’t say if I am a good cook, but people who ate what I cooked didn’t get sick.”

Home touch: “I have a couple little [Swarovski] figurines in Portland from Vienna, for remembering my mother.”