Chef Chat: Charles Stotts of Avalon

Avalon can thank Sin City burn out for its new chef, Charles Stotts. The Minnesota native says his culinary career took off in Las Vegas; after a while, though, he wanted the first flight out.

Stotts was Chef de Cuisine at Avalon and stepped up when Travis Watson left for Culinary Dropout in January.

He has cooked in a few kitchens around the Valley (Bloom, Seville Golf & Country Club and Different Pointe of View) and says what Phoenix needs most is good food after 10 p.m.. (Come on Downtown!)

The chef stops in this week to dish about Phoenix cuisine, his favorite ingredients and the cookbook he wishes someone would write ...

What's never in your kitchen?

A radio. To do great cooking your intent and focus has to be in the food. Hearing the sizzle in the pan how loud something is in the pan is important ... It's supposed to make a certain sound. In the kitchen, I need and ask for all the five senses.

What are your culinary inspirations?
I would love to say that my inspirations come down to peasant food and then make it really, really good. I love a perfect pot roast, or a mac and cheese. Anyone can put a lobster on a plate and it's going to taste good. That's a lot harder with dishes people used to eat solely to survive.

What does Phoenix need less of (culinary wise)?
Less franchise food. I believe there's a huge disconnect in cuisine here; people want things fast and big. I truly believe the true craft of cooking exists in local places. I can be satisfied with something great in five or six bites, it doesn't have to be a huge, one-dimensional dish that covers my plate. 

What are five words to describe Avalon cuisine?

Under promised, over delivered, contemporary American, best ingredients, best technique.

What's your cooking mantra?

Season everything, taste everything, work clean.

What food could you eat everyday?

Pizza. Absolutely. 

What food could you live without?

I may be the only chef in town who says this, but I'm really not an olive guy. I love things that are salty but I just can't do olives.

What recipe books did you learn from?

There have to be a few .. I mean, I don't know a French cook that doesn't regard the French Laundry cookbook as the bible. But do you know what book I wish they would come out with? "Recipes Don't Work." People think if you follow the recipe, then bam, it will turn out. But cooking requires some degree of creativity.

What's the hardest lesson you've learned in the kitchen?
So many people watch food on TV and see the real glamorous part. When you're a cook, you realize there's not much that's glamorous about it. It's intense, it's repetitive and it has to be consistent. 

(Check back tomorrow for part two of our Chef Chat with Charles Stotts ...)

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