At first glance, Andrew Ashmore looks more like a rocker than the executive chef of Scottsdale's Modern Steak. The 26-year-old from Grand Rapids, Mich. has a youthful appearance, with spiky hair and tattoos peeking out of his chef's jacket.
But the young'n is helming one of the Valley's newest premiere dining destinations, Fox Restaurant Concepts' home of the $78 steak. Ashmore's got plenty of experience in the kitchen already, having worked at the first Bourbon Steak in Las Vegas. He's been in Arizona since last summer, when he started preparing for the opening of Modern Steak this past October.
Now the spot is bustling with a varied clientele, from families to young singles to high rollers looking to sink their teeth into that pricey piece of meat. We talked to Ashmore, who says he's probably going to get more tattoos, though whether any will be of food is uncertain.
What's your first food memory? Being with my mom. I grew up in the kitchen, helping bake cookies and peel vegetables and all that sort of thing.
What made you decide to become a chef? I was in high school trying to figure out what I was going to do for college and realized there wasn't much that I was interested in except for food. I got a job as a dishwasher at a mom and pop shop where they did everything from scratch, everything the right way. I worked my way up and became lead cook and worked there through culinary school.
What made you decide to make the move to Scottsdale? To me, it's so similar to Las Vegas, but I feel like it's cleaner, and there's not as many casinos.
How did steak become one of your specialties? It's the niche I put myself into and helped me get to where I am today. I think it's part of what I love to do. I love to cook meat, and I'm always in pursuit of that perfect steak, that perfect carmelization, that perfect seasoning, that perfect char on the steak. Cooking on the broiler and cooking on a wood grill and an open wood fire grill is so much fun.
What's the biggest mistake people make when cooking steak? The biggest mistake is overcooking steak, burning it. Control the heat. You want to make sure the heat's hot enough where it cooks it and carmelizes it but doesn't overheat it and burn it.
What's it like being a young executive chef? It's fun. It's stressful. Each time is a new learning experience for me. This is the third restaurant I've opened in 3 years, and within 4 years I went from a cook to an executive chef for a pretty big restaurant for a well-known restauranteur. It's been humbling.... I think sometimes the hardest part is managing people who are older than you. You have to try to relate to everyone on a different level. You talk to everyone a little bit differently.
What's your favorite ingredient to buy locally? Right now, I'm loving all the root vegetables. Anything that's grown in the ground is my favorite.
What is your favorite food? Fish. Loup de Mer, which is Mediterranean sea bass.
What is your least favorite food? I'm not the biggest fan of raw fish. I love sushi sometimes here and there, but for me it's a textural thing.
What's your favorite thing to cook at home? I love cooking eggs and omelettes, and I love a great breakfast burrito.
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What's your favorite music to cook to? (Jimi) Hendrix, The Doors, anything classic rock, Janis Joplin.
What are your favorite local restaurants? I went to The Parlor last week, and I really liked that. It was really good food. I love Blanco Tacos + Tequila. I could eat there everyday.
You have a $78 steak on your menu. What's the most expensive food you've ever eaten? Kobe beef, 6 ounces for $150. I just got it because I didn't have to pay for it. But, if you can afford it, it's worth it.
How often do you eat Modern Steak's $78 steak? Not very often, but every once in a while you have to check the quality. (laughs)