The Galloping Gourmet
Ron Walker has set the foodies in town talking -- not just because he bought one of the most celebrated restaurants in the Valley, but for his unique brand of charm.
In April, Walker and his stunning bride, the lovely Margarita Lopez Walker, held a coming-out party after purchasing Scottsdale's celebrated Restaurant Hapa from its founding chefs, James and Stacey McDevitt.
Hapa, known for its innovative American-Asian fusion cuisine, has long won accolades from important international media like Gourmet magazine. But the McDevitts are freeing up some time to focus on a new enterprise, a restaurant in Napa Valley called Budo (Japanese for "grape"). James, however, will remain on board as Hapa's executive chef, according to the restaurant's Web site (www.restauranthapa.com).
Good thing, too. It's hard not to be skeptical about the restaurant's future after the Walkers' less than auspicious debut.
"This is just a hobby for me," uttered the 50ish Walker, who told us that his primary business was Walker Power Systems, an aerospace contractor for the U.S. military. Another interest of Walker's appears to involve the outdoors. He was so suntanned his skin had the appearance of broasted chicken.
His 26-year-old wife, meanwhile, turned heads with her model-like figure. A Mexican-born artist who claims to take inspiration from Frida Kahlo, Lopez Walker has already begun tinkering with Hapa's celebrated menu by adding tapas. (A foodie friend shuddered at the thought of the casual Mexican appetizers on the Asian menu, and that's even before we told her the cute name for them: Hapa's Tapas.)
But what really stole the show was Walker's propensity to address nearly everyone around him -- male or female, old friend or new acquaintance -- as "bitches."
Walker seemed to take some relish in pointing out to a New Times employee that he'd reserved one table for several women. The "bitches' table," he called it, saying that he'd arranged the ladies like a fine plate of cheeses.
In particular, the aging Don Juan, clad in a loud Hawaiian shirt, seemed to have an obsession with breasts, even lubriciously commenting on the New Times employee's rack. When a petite, flat-chested waitress wandered by, Walker criticized her attributes like he would an undercooked appetizer prepared by his wife.
Some of his behavior was simply unfathomable. To a woman who told him that she'd just talked to his wife, Walker said, inexplicably, "Did you touch her pussy?"
The woman's jaw dropped.
We weren't the only ones who were mystified. Around the room, plenty of eyes were rolling at Walker's behavior. New Times received a follow-up "gasp" to the event, sent from one prominent wine supplier in attendance who wanted it to be clear that his company should not be reflected in Walker's atrocious behavior.
Writes the shocked grape guru: "I guess I've finally gotten over the Shock and Awe!' of our dinner together! My goodness. I don't think I can remember ever being that embarrassed by someone. It's really sad that James has worked so hard to create the recognition he's received at Hapa, and now to see this guy [Walker] potentially destroy it overnight is really sad."
New Times also received post-launch-party communications from Walker himself, who persistently messaged the employee whose figure he'd admired with several invitations to lunch. "My office is about one block from you -- come visit," he purred in a personal note. What a smoothie.
The McDevitts have not been available for comment on Walker, traveling out of town to focus on bigger and better restaurants. Word has it that McDevitt hooked up with the Walkers simply because Walker is a big investor in Budo. These same industry sources tell us that McDevitt is not happy with the situation, but has cashed the check, and will stay on indefinitely as a consultant.
No word yet whether Walker, as restaurant tycoon, is going to give himself the same title he carries at Walker Power Systems. "NOMFIC" reads his business card, which cleverly refers to his position as "Number one motherfucker in charge."
Bone appetite, Ron.
Brown Cloud, Indeed
The mayors of four local cities sat down last month to pick the finalists among 7,100 suggestions for the nickname of the Valley's future light rail rapid transit system.
It was a breezy affair, one of those win-win civic marketing gimmicks whereby bureaucrats get good press for a questionable civic project by enlisting a faux-democratic public vote to name the thing.
Sure, light rail will be a breath of fresh air for the Valley. But opponents fear that the system will be used least by those who should use it most.
In any case, the mayors approved a safe list of unimaginative monikers: Link, MARC, Railrunner, Silverlink, Sol Rail, Via, V-Train, A-Train and the MAX.
To their detriment, our fearless leaders failed to include a far more appropriate acronym that New Times can only assume has been making the rounds at City Hall. One so catchy and clever, there's no doubt it would immediately endear the project to a skeptical public. After all, who could resist riding the PHoenix Area Rapid Transit system?
Come on. Let it rip, guys. Nothing gets traction like the least common denominator.
Name it PHART.
As in: "Hey, let's grab a burrito at Tacos de Juarez and hop the PHART to the BOB."
And the billboard campaign is a natural.
"PHART: It doesn't stink."
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