Fun facts about Arizona’s best chefs

Above: Chef Jean-Christophe Gros runs Voila French Bistro, where he prepares classic French cuisine with a modern approach. Lifestyle | 15 Nov, 2018 |

We asked some of the most highly respected chefs and some of Arizona’s best chefs one simple question: tell us something our readers would be surprised to know about you.

Chef Tandy Peterson helms Mowry & Cotton, the newly opened concept at The Phoenician.

• “I come from a long line of farmers. My grandfather had a farm in Blythe, California that I visited as a child. Today, I grow my own grapes, corn, plums and other vegetables at my home. Being a chef at a true farm-to-table restaurant also means that I’m involved in guiding what we grow at the Merkin Orchards and greenhouses to come up with in-season ingredients for our menu.” — Chef Christopher “Smithers” Smith heads the culinary team at Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room and Osteria in Cottonwood.

• “My first restaurant job was working at Denny’s as a dishwasher at 15. I grew up watching culinary shows and have always wanted to work as a chef.” — Executive chef Scott Mortensen oversees all culinary operations at Roaring Fork.

• “I grew up in Pinedale, Wyoming – a small town of 1500 people and no stop lights.  My family and I had a ranch of about 100 cattle.  As a child, I named all my cattle after spices – my first three being Salt, Pepper and Sugar.  Sugar’s first babies were the Nut-Meg twins.”  — Chef Tandy Peterson helms Mowry & Cotton, the newly opened concept at The Phoenician.

• “I was a 20-year-old cook in the coffee shop at the Sahara Tahoe in the summer of 1974. Elvis Presley was performing in the High Sierra room and after his performance, he ordered room service, which came off my station. He was not exactly at the pinnacle of his career at that point but it was still fun to cook for ‘“The King.'” — Chef Charles Wiley oversees all culinary concepts at Mountain Shadows.

• “My first passion in life was not to cook, but play baseball, after a series of tragic events food became my true passion.” — Executive chef Colin Ribble oversees all culinary operations at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort, operations including the brand new Chop, Block & Brew as well as popular wine and small-plate bar Oak & Fork, Agave’s, Copper Cactus Grill and The Buffet.

Executive chef Joey Maggiore of The Maggiore Group, which includes Hash Kitchen, The Sicilian Butcher, Tomaso’s and Tomaso’s When in Rome.

• “I was born and raised in eastern France and have been working in kitchens since I was 16. I have cooked French food for more than 30 years, but I LOVE American dishes, especially barbequed ribs and fries.” — Chef Jean-Christophe Gros runs Voila French Bistro, where he prepares classic French cuisine with a modern approach.

• “I’m a self-taught photographer. When I’m not in the kitchen, I love to go hiking and shoot landscape photography.” — Chef Kevin Wemlinger oversees all culinary operations of Bourbon & Bones.

• “I was born and raised in Arizona and after 25 years moving around and traveling the world, I realized this is home and now take full advantage of all that Arizona offers. This includes shooting guns in the desert, skiing in Flagstaff, whitewater rafting on the Colorado River and enjoying all the unique local foods.” — Chef Matt Carter co-founded Fat Ox, focused on crafting modern riffs on regional Italian classics.

• “Most people don’t want to cook for chefs. When I am a guest at someone else’s house we aren’t hard to cook for. I’m not critical of others when they cook for me, just grateful.  Most of us really appreciate that we don’t have to cook and that someone else is putting in the effort.” — Chef Michael Rusconi owns Rusconi’s American Kitchen, which offers a hearty menu of regional American cuisine featuring a wood burning grill.

• “I grew up watching my father, Tomaso Maggiore, the master, make Italian cuisine look easy. I decided to follow in his footsteps. Passion, for me, is cooking and creating restaurant concepts. However, gold chains and a major shoe problem are my second loves.” — Executive chef Joey Maggiore behind family-owned The Maggiore Group, which includes Hash Kitchen, The Sicilian Butcher, Tomaso’s and Tomaso’s When in Rome.

• “My grandmother was the chef back in the day at Biosphere II, the world’s largest environmental science laboratory. My mother was a chef at Miraval in Tucson.” — Justin Macy is the corporate executive chef for CIVANA Carefree, a newly launched resort focused on wellness, mindfulness and all things fresh when it comes to cuisine.

Sara Garrant serves as executive chef of Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

• “I grew up in a tight-knit community of commercial salmon fisherman in South Central Alaska. From a young age, my mom and I would spend summers cooking for our “adopted family” of fisherman, when I wasn’t fishing myself, mind you.” — Sara Garrant serves as executive chef of Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, providing the finest cuts of beef, poultry and fish, all slow-poached in butter, grilled and finished over wood-fueled flames.

• “I live on a working farm with chickens, a turkey and horses that I raise and train.” — Chef Samantha Roberts serves as executive chef of Riot Hospitality Group, overseeing the kitchens and menus for each of the brand’s nine restaurants across Arizona.

• “I’ve been with the Four Seasons 25 years – most recently at the Four Seasons Hotel Amman in Jordan, overseeing seven kitchens and eight restaurants, including one I built from the ground up, from the kitchen to the Kobe beef.” — Executive chef Chuck Kazmer oversees the award-winning resort’s Talavera; Proof, an American Canteen; Saguaro Blossom Poolside Grill and Onyx Bar & Lounge, as well as all food and beverage service throughout the conference and banquet facilities. 

• “I was born in Phoenix, but grew up in Kingman. I remember wanting to be a chef as young as eight, so started by taking home economics courses offered in middle school. Freshman year, my life changed forever when Kingman High became one of the first schools in Arizona to offer a Fine Food Arts Program.” — As the chef de cuisine at deseo, Derek Biazo has a passion for pairing traditional Latin American ingredients with his own contemporary culinary style to create unique, fresh and flavorful dishes.

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