Elias Cairo was born in Salt Lake City to a large, food-loving Greek family, who came together to butcher, preserve, and prepare lamb and goats with Old World techniques. Already on the path to a lifelong fascination with meat, Cairo started cooking at a young age in his father’s restaurants. At 20 he began a European trade apprenticeship in Switzerland, where over the next four years, he learned classic techniques of cooking, butchery, and charcuterie from Chef Annegret Schlumpf. During that time, he also attended Berufsschule in Wattwil, Switzerland, for formal culinary education. After his apprenticeship and schooling, Cairo moved to Kos, Greece, where he apprenticed in a hotel kitchen and developed menu items based on what farmers and fishermen brought him daily.
Upon returning to the United States, Cairo headed to Portland, Oregon, lured by the city's growing reputation for cultivating and nurturing culinary talent. He took a line cook position at venerable Castagna, working his way up to the position of sous chef in less than a year and eventually earning the title of executive chef. In summer 2009, Elias left Castagna to follow through with his Greek training and start Oregon’s first USDA-certified meat-curing facility, Olympic Provisions, which is also a European-style restaurant and deli. Since then, Cairo’s business acumen and sausage-savvy have spawned the expansion of the charcuterie facility and the opening of a second location.
Although he had developed years’ of technical experience, it was Cairo’s passion that changed the face of his business—catalyzing the little charcuterie store’s journey from offering the odd sausage at a local farmers’ markets to selling a full charcuterie line at 18 Portland farmers’ markets and starting a national wholesale program. If you wander into a high-end cheese store in New York and San Francisco, chances are you’ll soon find the Olympic Provisions label. That is, if you haven’t already.