Crudo of Phoenix is in the middle of a dinner series, inviting a guest chef into its kitchen once a month to cook alongside Chef Cullen Campbell. Because of the freedom each chef is allowed, the series is being called Blank Space. Guests at the dinner get only a name of a local chef and then come in to be surprised as to what comes from the partnership of the two chefs.
The surprise ends upon arriving to a table, with a menu at each place, reminding diners of the guest chef and allowing them to read what they’ll get to experience within the next few hours. Guests sat themselves at communal tables, furthering the intimate feel that Crudo is striving for with these dinners. By choice, the dinners are kept at around 35 people to contain the intimacy and close-knit community feel.
March’s dinner featured Chef Paul McCabe of T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms in Phoenix. Some of the dishes were clearly Campbell’s creation, like the shell filled with grouper cheeks, live scallops and Kauai shrimp, a seafood amalgamation with ham hock and pork skin in it. Ahi with horseradish, smoked oyster crema and rye chips went with the Crudo name, a word that means “raw” in Italian.
From the communal seating to the overall point of the event – to invite another chef into the Crudo kitchen – the community feel of the dinner was present throughout the evening. Many guests had been to Crudo before, but many were using this event as an excuse to visit the restaurant for the first time. Maureen Campbell, owner with Chef Cullen Campbell and bartender Micah Olson, greeted people by name but offered the same graciousness to first timers as regular guests.
Joanna Eland of Quench Fine Wines gave an introduction before each of the six courses about the five wines she had paired, all sourced from Wind Gap Winery in California. As with the chef, each month a new sommelier is invited to the dinner another way to introduce guests to the local food and drink culture.
Chef Cullen Campbell came up with the idea for the series and then picked the guest chefs who would cook with him. Furthering the community feel of the dinner, both chefs walked around greeting the guests, and like Maureen, recognized and knew many.
The series’ next dinner is April 13, featuring Chef Josh Hebert from Posh in Scottsdale. Chef Gio Osso from Virtu will be the celebrity chef May 4, and Kevin Binkley of Binkley’s, Café Bink and Bink’s Midtown will finish the series on June 1.
Crudo is located at 3603 E. Indian School Rd. in Phoenix.