Charleen Badman: On Lori Hashimoto, Chris Bianco's Mom, and the Kitchen Phrase That Gets Under Her Skin

Charleen Badman
Charleen Badman

Charleen Badman FnB 7125 East Fifth Avenue, Suite 31, Scottsdale 480-284-4777,

See also: -- Charleen Badman and Pavle Milic to Open FnB on Craftsman Court on Tuesday -- FnB's Charleen Badman Tells Food & Wine Her Favorite Places to Eat, Shop and Sleep in the Valley -- 15 Metro Phoenix Restaurants to Visit During Spring Training

This is part one of my interview with Charleen Badman, chef and co-owner of FnB, AZ Wine Merchants and Bodega. Come back Tuesday when Badman gives some juicy dish about cooking for famous people, the difference between male and female chefs and, um, her lady parts.

In the kitchen
In the kitchen

Charleen Badman is a classic bundle of contradictions. At first blush (and she'd be the one blushing), her blue eyes and open expression suggest the wholesomeness of a farm girl, an impression her quiet demeanor only fosters. Then you notice the tatts and the blond hair tinted an alarming shade of orange. But wait, what? The tattoos -- one of a leek and another of Ganesha, the Hindu god of knowledge, wisdom, and wealth -- seem more like thoughtful talismans than showy arm art. Is she spiritual, this aproned earth mother who speaks softly but with a shockingly sardonic tone? As a darling of the media world -- beloved locally and noticed by national publications such as Food & Wine -- you'd think she'd enjoy basking in the attention that comes with the accolades, but she keeps her head down and works her station, leaving the schmoozing to her partner, Pavle Milic. Badman scoffs at the term "celebrity chef." In fact, she scoffs at the term "chef," rejecting the glamorized BS that so often comes with her job these days.

Her career certainly didn't begin in a glamorous way. She enrolled in her Tucson high school's vocational program called FEAST (an acronym for Food Education and Service Training) when she was 16, working after school at an Italian restaurant for a year before completing a school-required internship at Donna Nordin's Café Terra Cotta, one of the most trendy, well-received restaurants in Tucson at the time. In 1992, Badman moved to Scottsdale to help Nordin open a second Café Terra Cotta in the Borgata, staying there as sous chef until she was 22. When Chrysa Robertson (who also had worked for Nordin) opened Rancho Pinot in Town & Country a year later, Badman joined her there, where she became indoctrinated in Robertson's philosophy: local, seasonal, simple and ingredient-driven. Longtime friend Milic, who was working in New York at the time, encouraged Badman to come to New York, helping her land a job at Anne Rosenzweig's Lobster Club, where she moved from line cook to chef de cuisine by her third year. Rosenzweig sent her on a one-month stage at Del Pescatore in Italy (the first Michelin three-star restaurant run by a female chef and the place where Badman learned to make pasta) and a two-week stage at legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley. In 2001, Badman opened her own place -- an intimate 60-seat bistro in Greenwich Village called Inside -- where she earned positive reviews and two invitations to cook at the Beard House.  

Reading material at FnB
Reading material at FnB

Six years later, when the lease was up, Badman moved back to Phoenix to help Robertson open Union Wine Bar & Grill, shifting back to Rancho Pinot when Union closed. Two years later, she was ready to do her own thing again, this time with her old friend Milic. The pair opened FnB in 2009, and the response from food lovers was instant and positive. FnB has remained a lively gathering spot ever since. In 2012, Badman and Milic opened Baratin (a wine bar), AZ Wine Merchants, and Bodega (an artisanal market), all side-by-side in Craftsman Court. They merged FnB and Baratin in the original Baratin space, keeping the name FnB, in January of this year.

Five words to describe you: Generous, yogi, moving forward, obsessive, workaholic.

Five words to describe FnB: Seasonal, honest, fun, familiar, current.

Favorite food smell: Fresh-cut herbs from my garden.

Favorite cookbook and why: The Food Bible by Judith Wills, a great reference. I use it often to pair herbs and spices with vegetables.

Name an ingredient you love to cook with and explain why: Vinegar. It makes everything sing.  

Seasonal salad with radish, apple, pomegranate seeds, pecans and cranberries
Seasonal salad with radish, apple, pomegranate seeds, pecans and cranberries
Pavle Milic

Most overrated ingredient: Foam. Is it over yet?

Trend you like: I'm not really into trends, but I'm excited that vegetables are getting more attention. I hope it's not a trend [and it] just becomes a fact that vegetables need to be used more than proteins.

Dish/trend or catchphrase you wish would go away: "Yes, Chef." I cook for a living. Just call me by my name.

Your favorite cuisine: Anything ethnic. It's always been my staple go-to on my days off. I always find inspiration for my crazy-cook head.

Best food memory: Arriving in New York with my suitcase. I went to the Bianco house without ever having met Chris' family. Francesca [Chris Bianco's mom] had roast chicken waiting. I can still smell the kitchen and the carrots she cooked it with.

If your cooking were a genre of music, what would it be?: It wouldn't be about the genre as much as the energy that a band that's been together for a long time exudes on stage. Although it's hard work, they make the music seem seamless through a group effort.

Favorite place to dine in Phoenix: Hana Japanese. Lori [Hashimoto] makes everything taste fresh and exciting, and she just has such honesty about her food. She's justifiably proud of what she does.

Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Tony Abou-Ganim & Adam Seger Charlotte Voisey of Best American Brands Ambassador Steve Olson of Valley Ho Dough Robson of Gallo Blanco Edward Farrow of The Cafe at MIM Greg LaPrad of Quiessence & Morning Glory Cafe Joshua Johnson of Kai Joshua Johnson of Kai Todd Sicolo of T.Cooks Josh Riesner of Pig & Pickle Lester Gonzalez of Cowboy Ciao M.J. Coe of Federal Pizza Steven "Chops" Smith of Searsucker Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis Michael Rusconi of Rusconi's American Kitchen Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot Lynn Rossetto of The Splendid Table Cullen Campbell of Crudo DJ Monti Carlo Pete DeRuvo of Davanti Enoteca Chuck Wiley of Cafe ZuZu Justin Beckett of Beckett's Table Bryan Dooley of Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House James Porter of Petite Maison Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Chris Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge Chris Curtiss of NoRTH Arcadia Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles

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