88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung
From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Today, the women who introduced Phoenix to the cheese course -- in ice cream.
Tastemakers 88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung
After meeting in New York in 2001, Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung (Jan is left, above) took a circuitous route (though Tokyo, London, Sydney, Hong Kong, San Francisco for Helen and Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco for Jan) to opening Sweet Republic in a little corner of Scottsdale in the summer of 2008. Since then, their handcrafted ice cream, highlighting local Arizona ingredients and emphasizing fun eye-opening flavor combinations (I Heart Bacon, anyone?) have been featured on the Food Network and in Bon Appetit and USA Today. Eating double scoops of handmade creations like salted butter caramel and basil lime sorbet is one of our favorite paths to brain freeze.
We arrived in Phoenix with... Helen's high-energy mini pinscher Elli and as many cookbooks, pots, pans, and dishes as we could fit into a little Subaru . . . and zero furniture, because it's hard to replace your kitchen gear, but you can always buy a new couch.
If we were sitting down to a dinner for six, our four dream dining companions would be... pioneer of the seasonal local food movement Alice Waters, cookbook author David Lebovitz, American poet Marilyn Hacker and Hong Kong-born actress Maggie Cheung.
One place that everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Binkley's. Kevin Binkley is so thoughtful and passionate about the food he makes. He is so persistent about consistently making fantastic food and yet does not stop evolving. Eating his cooking is simply inspirational.
One menu item this city could be without is... crab rangoon (sorry, just don't get it) and crab cakes. Helen's first restaurant stint in Berkeley, California, involved making crab cakes from scratch every morning. From scratch at this Chez Panisse alumnus-owned and -operated restaurant meant making 20-plus-yolk mayonnaise by hand and grinding whole loaves for bread crumbs. Suffice it to say these were the best damn crab cakes ever, and no crab cake in Phoenix or anywhere since has quite stood up to that high standard.
Our last meal in Phoenix would be... anything whipped up by Charleen Badman (FnB), and we would definitely be handing our plates back for seconds.
The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong 95: Eric Schaefer 94: Hanna Gabrielsson 93: Shinji Kurita 92: Silvana Salcido Esparza 91: Mike Pitt 90: Christina Barrueta 89: Christopher Gross Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.