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Chef James Fox of Big Earl's BBQ

Chef James Fox of Big Earl's BBQ
Lauren Saria

Chef Chat this week takes us to Old Town Scottsdale where we'll be chatting with James Fox from Big Earl's BBQ.

If you don't already know, Big Earl's BBQ is Chef James Porter's way of satisfying ourneed for down-home cooking. Fox joined Big Earl's team just a few months ago after working with Matt Carter at The Mission and Zinc, and later, as a personal chef in Mexico.

What got you into the culinary world?

I loved eating from the very beginning and then in high school I took culinary classes. Not like home economics, but food service and gourmet foods. So I played football and I did that. I'd have my friends over and I'd cook big feasts for them, nothing too fancy, but it was fun [and we] had some good times. Then straight out of high [school] I took the summer off and went to culinary school at Scottsdale Culinary Institute.

After culinary school I worked at the Hyatt in downtown Phoenix for two and a half years. I worked kinda everywhere - banquet, their three meal restaurant, the bar....It was good; I learned a lot.

Hear more from Chef Fox after the jump.

How and why did you make the change from a big hotel to places like Zinc and Big Earl's?

Starting out my career I feel like culinary school was "high school," and then the Hyatt was my "college" where I honed and learned a little bit more. I went on to Zinc from there and that was like me going into the real world because it wasn't corporate - it was privately owned and a lot different. I liked it a more. You have a little more freedom and you can do things [your own way]. You can be like, "Hey chef, this is an easier way to do this...is it cool if I do it this way?"

So far, how has your experience been here working with Chef Porter?

It's been good! I mean coming from [working with] Matt Carter and being at Mission and Zinc - it's obviously a different mentality than BBQ. So I came in and was just ready to change stuff. Not tweak it to where it's too fancy, but tweak it to where its not only better tasting and better quality, but also easier, more cost efficient, better for the kitchen...everything.

And if you weren't here doing BBQ, what would you want to be doing?

Well I've done French, I've done Latin/Mexican, I'm doing "American" now, but I really want to do Italian. That will probably be my next venture. I just feel like Italian food is so ingredient oriented. I mean, a pasta sauce is only three or four ingredients. If those ingredients aren't the highest quality you can get, then it's not going to be good. And that's true with a lot of stuff, but you can mask things in BBQ with smoke or sauce if it's not the highest quality. When its Italian, its gotta be good tomatoes.

Check back tomorrow for the second half of our conversation with Chef Fox.

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