Adam Brown Executive Chef Noca restaurantnoca.com
This is part one of our interview with Adam Brown, the new executive chef of Noca in Phoenix. Brown, a former Noca sous-chef, was named executive chef in late January, taking the job that had been vacant since mid-2013 when former chef Claudio Urciuoli stepped down to pursue baking. Today, we hear from both Brown and Noca owner Eliot Wexler. And don't forget to come back for part two on Wednesday.
See also: 10 Best Things I Ate in February
You don't have to have eaten at Noca, the five-year-old Biltmore-area restaurant owned by Eliot Wexler, to understand what it's all about. Wexler can tell you in five little words: "Noca is about the ingredients."
Since opening in August 2008, he's made it the highest priority to procure only the best ingredients, often getting things from a single producer or purveyor located states away. For Wexler, it's not a question of price or whether it's locally sourced; it's merely about getting the best of the best and letting it shine.
And he's stuck to that mission with each of the restaurant's executive chefs.
"Whoever the chef is is the muse for the ingredients," Wexler says. "But I want them to express themselves."
Under the restaurant's last executive chef, Urciuoli, expression meant taking the menu the Italian route. And with 23-year-old Adam Brown at the helm, many diners wonder what changes they can expect. The answer is complicated, not because Brown's style of cooking is complex but because he's been been influenced by such a diverse array of talented chefs.
Brown started at Noca in May 2010 under then-executive chef Chris Curtiss. At the time, he was a 19-year-old student at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, just a lucky kid who landed a stage at the restaurant thanks to a connection at school. But unlike most, he stuck around, working his way up the ranks and eventually becoming sous-chef under the restaurant's second chef, Matt Taylor. Both Brown and Wexler get sentimental when they remember those early days at Noca, when Wexler says the kitchen was stacked with a "dream team" of talented, hardworking chefs.
"All the parts were moving . . . It was like a watch," Brown says.
But Brown needed to experience something new, so he moved on from Noca and took a job at The Wrigley Mansion, not long after heading over to Kelly's at Southbridge in Scottsdale. He then helped open Searsucker Scottsdale, working with chef Steven "Chops" Smith and in 2013 moved to Austin to help open a new Searsucker there.
Favorite childhood food memory: Family gatherings because there was always great food and good company.
Five years ago I was: A senior in high school.
Your personal mantra or catchphrase: Don't worry about it; it will all work out.
One thing you want people to know about you: Not sure . . . that I like to have a good time?
Craziest thing that's ever happened in the kitchen: In Austin, we had a serious kitchen fire that set us back and was the most nerve-wracking experience. In addition, at another place I was at in Scottsdale, the sprinkler system just randomly went off in the kitchen about a hour before service. The Cryovac machine and circulators where saved but all mise en place perished.
Your favorite drink and where you like to get it: A nice cold PBR at any participating location, but usually Rockbar.
Your biggest mentor in the kitchen and one important lesson you've learned from him/her: I have several, but being where I am I would have to say Chris Curtiss because he inspired me to be the chef that I want to be. I have the utmost respect for him because he is a badass. Also one thing that he said to me I always remember, "Don't take Yelp to heart, it will make you crazy." In addition, Steve "Chops" Smith and I have worked together on a few adventures, and I got a lot out of it.
Your culinary guilty pleasure: A lobe of foie out of the package with a nice sprinkle of salt. Also fatty meat ends from any animal -- soft or crispy. I also have a love for offal.
The trend I'm totally over is "gluten intolerance" because I know people who actually have Celiac disease and it really affects them. But then there are the others who say they are, and a few days into the diet, they decide it isn't for them. For some people it is not a life choice. Too much?
Your favorite cookbook: That is a hard one. I have a small library and it would be hard to choose. It's like my knives: Each has its own purpose and is special in its own way.
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Your favorite ingredient to cook with: Fresh fish because it doesn't lie and is more often than not good by itself.
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Steve Kraus - Press Coffee Roastery Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli - Noble Bread Sasha Raj - 24 Carrots Nick LaRosa - Nook Joey Maggiore - Cuttlefish Country Velador - Super Chunk Sweets and Treats James Porter - Petite Maison Cullen Campbell - Crudo Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay