Bistro 24's Stephen Toevs, Part 2
Executive Chef Stephen Toevs in the kitchen at Bistro 24
After your rugby injury, what did you do back home?
So I went to community college in Rhode Island and I just finished my liberal arts degree and went back to work at this Italian restaurant that I was a busboy at back in the day. It was bought out and redone and it was a really respectable restaurant. They did huge amounts of covers. So I started there with pantry, I was trained by this sweet couple, Apostoli and Maria, I'll never forget them. They taught me how to make Caesar dressing and Caesar salad.
Pizza by night, construction by day
Apostoli, the husband, he worked the pizza station and the pizza station was out in the dining room. There was this huge area....They trained me on the pizza station so I became the pizza guy. So I worked there for two years as I went to [Community College of Rhode Island], I also worked construction. I would refurbish historic homes and do remodeling on historic homes in Providence and it was an awesome job. So I worked construction during the day and restaurant at night
Feed your passion
The passion I got for food started with Apostoli and how he was so organized and clean with everything. And that was just in my general nature and the passion I got for food came from the fact that I can make a brick oven pizza - throw it in the air, make it, throw it in the oven, pull it out, and then walk around the station and go and serve it to the guests. And to me that was like the greatest thing ever. And I would walk in every single day and i would say to myself, "I'm going to feed my passion today."
I used to dig graves, urn graves in a historic cemetery, and do landscaping. I used to be a laborer for a blasting company, which was an awesome job....I got to see some incredible explosions.
Life after college
I graduated school in May, it was like May of 2001 and I spent a summer and what would be like a fall semester working two jobs non-stop, six days a week. And I was making great money but I wasn't going anywhere in my life. And I said to myself, "I want to go to culinary school, this is what I want to do."
So you went to CIA and eventually got your job at the Marriott which took you all around the country and you became quite the barbecue enthusiast. Are you planning to continue competing?
Now that I'm no longer at Desert Ridge, I plan to start a cook off team here, cause it's great PR for the hotel, like our team is funded 100% by the hotel
So what's competitive barbecuing all about?
Barbecued food at like a restaurant, is completely different from barbecue that you cook on the competition circuit. The barbecue on the competition circuit is, you have to cook to the judges, you have to cook to the regional are and you have to know what wins. Presentation wins, taste wins, texture, you know. It's not falling-off-the-bone ribs, it's ribs that you bite into and you still see your teethmarks but you pull the meat cleanly off the bone.
Where do you find the best barbecue?
If you want to think about the absolute capital of barbecue, and this is an argument I can have with a barbecue enthusiast for hours, I would have to say, according to most books and periodicals I have read, that the Carolinas are the capitals of barbecue.
How do you know Carolina barbecue?
You have Carolinas which are based mostly on vinegar sauces and they tend to do rubs that are not as spicy, they're kind of neutral. Throughout the cooking process they'll mop with vinegars and keep moist that way. The Texas barbecue you're looking at a char, an overall brown or blackened char from the rub, and it's a sweet style sauce. Beef is king in Texas whereas in the Carolinas, pork is....Memphis barbecue is on its own level. That's just straight dry rub, sauce on the side, you'll never find a sauced or glazed barbecue.
Whether you're barbecuing for a competition or cooking for the Bistro, what do you want to come across in your food?
I want to create emotion. I always want people to talk more about the food than the content of their meeting....For me, food is emotional, some of the best times of my life have been sitting around a table, eating food....I What I focus on is cooking techniques, clean flavors, and seasonal food.
Check back tomorrow for one of Chef Toevs' classic family recipes.
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2401 E. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85016