20 Things No One Told You About Being a Chef in Phoenix
Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of us are familiar with the less-glorious aspects of being a chef: the long hours, the time it takes to get to the top, and (ouch!) the aches and pains.
But what about being a chef in Phoenix? What's so distinctive about cooking here? I asked a few chefs what they had to find out for themselves and here's what they had to say.
Left to right: Chefs Stephen Toevs, Massimo de Francesa, Stephen "Chops" Smith, and Jeff Kraus
1.) Everyone here loves chain restaurants. Chef Stephen "Chops" Smith, Searsucker Scottsdale
2.) Even though we live in a major metro area, the breadth of resources are smaller than expected. Jeff Kraus, chef and owner, Crêpe Bar
3.) How much Gold Bond Powder you will need when doing summer outdoor culinary events. Chef Stephen Toevs, The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
4.) Sourcing specialty items can be very challenging. Chef Massimo de Francesa, Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, a Kimpton Hotel
5.) When it's August, the swamp cooler in your kitchen is pointless except for adding life-sucking humidity to the air. Chef Don Newman, Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar, Mesa
6.) Even though it's sunny year-round, I have yet to get a tan, due to spending the majority of my time in the kitchen. Chef David Viviano, The Westin Phoenix Downtown
Left to right: Chefs Jared Lupin, Gina Buskirk, Ehren Litzenberger, and Stephan Germanaud
7.) The East Valley has the highest concentration of specialty diets and food allergies anywhere I have worked (including Orange County). Almost every ticket has a modifier. Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro
8.) There are different palates in the Valley because Arizona is such a melting pot of people. Jared Lupin, chef and partner, Umami
9.) No one ever told me you can't, you won't, or don't try. We have a great supportive group of food and restaurant people here. Gina Buskirk, chef and owner, Gina's Homemade
10.) How seasonal the business can be in the Valley. Chef Stephan Germanaud, Geordie's at the Wrigley Mansion
11.) It's hot, they don't pay, and the food scene is small. Chef Ehren Litzenberger, BLD Chandler
12.) It's cooler to be in a hot kitchen four out of 12 months compared to being outside. Chef Massimo de Francesa, Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, a Kimpton Hotel
13.) Valley chefs are very involved in charity work and are extremely supportive of each other. Chef Stephen Toevs, The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
Left to right: Chefs Don Newman, Chris McKinley, Saul Velasquez, and David Viviano
14.) It's an extremely fickle market. Chef Stephen "Chops" Smith, Searsucker Scottsdale
15.) The culinary students here think they can graduate with an executive chef or sous chef title with none of the work put in. It takes years to earn the knowledge that it takes to be a chef. Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro
16.) There is a constant need to push yourself because of the intense competition between restaurants. Chef Saul Velasquez, Blanco Tacos + Tequila
17.) Even though it's sunny year-round, high season is busier than anticipated. Chef David Viviano, The Westin Phoenix Downtown
18.) It's a big culture but a small community of people. You will always run into the same people in this line of work. Chef Don Newman, Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar, Mesa
19.) You should save your vacation time for July and August when everyone else leaves. Chef Stephen Toevs, The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
20.) The Valley has a lot of chefs, mixologists, and restaurateurs who are breaking new ground. The dining public in the Valley needs to show support for the independent thinkers and foster their creativity. Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro
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