Chef Patrick Karvis of TapHouse Kitchen: "If I Were to Open My Own Restaurant, This Would Be It"
Patrick Karvis Executive Chef TapHouse Kitchen www.taphousekitchen.com
There's certainly no shortage of beer-focused restaurants opening around town these days. Which chef Patrick Karvis knows is making it difficult for his restaurant to stand out.
"That's the way it works," the chef says with a shrug. "Five years ago it was sushi."
It's a fitting reference since the four-month old TapHouse Kitchen sits in the former home of Blue Wasabi, a sushi restaurant that opened back in 2008. And Karvis knows first-hand how trends come and go, having been living and cooking in the Valley since 1992.
The chef's experience in the Valley dining scene dates all the way to the golden days of local legends such as Michael DeMaria, Mark Tarbell, and Eddie Matney. Karvis worked in all their kitchens over the years, as well as at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn and Wright's at the Biltmore.
"I didn't go to culinary school," Karvis says. "So that was my training."
But just because he didn't go to culinary school doesn't mean Karvis stumbled into his career in the kitchen on accident. To the contrary, he tells an almost too good to be true story about the exact moment when he knew he'd spend the rest of his life working to become a chef.
Karvis says it all began when we was just a kid, washing dishes at a restaurant called The Fishery in Florida. One day -- as sometimes happens in the wild world of the Back of the House -- a fry cook up and walked out.
"So the chef was like, 'Patrick, do you wanna learn how to cook?'" Karvis recalls with a smile. "And I was like, "Hell yeah!" So I jumped on the line."
Later that night Karvis says he remembers putting a simple but life-changing deep-fried soft shell crab in the window and being thrilled at the idea that that very plate would go to a table of people who would enjoy something he made. It was an epiphany.
"Right then and there, that was it," Karvis says. He was hooked.
He went to New York to work for a while but ended up on a cross-country roadtrip to find a job in California. On the way he made what was supposed to be a pit-stop in Arizona to see a friend. It's now been 22 years and he hasn't left.
TapHouse Kitchen is the first opportunity Karvis has had to really let loose, but he's keeping it simple with food that complements the restaurants impressive alcohol offerings. In addition to 20 beers on tap, TapHouse Kitchen also has five wines and eight whiskeys available on draft.
The menu fits squarely into the New American category, drawing inspiration from a handful of international cuisines. The special board is where Karvis says he lets most of his creativity show; in comparison, the rest of the menu aims to help the restaurant appeal to Scottsdale residents as a comfortable neighborhood spot. The bright, sharply designed dining helps on that front too.
"Honestly, if I were to open my own restaurant, this would be it," Karvis says. "I'm super proud."
Chef Patrick Karvis
Five words to describe Taphouse Kitchen: Friendly, neighborhood, comfort, modern and local.
Explain your thought process in creating the menu for the restaurant: Really I just wanted to create a menu where people could enjoy a few shared plates, an entrée and dessert and have the food complement the many different and exciting beers and wines we have. I took great fresh and local products and made them exciting yet kept the menu simple, so it would have that neighborhood feel to it. I want it to be where you have your favorites, like the fish and chips or chicken and dumplings, but each time you come back you want to try something new.
What type of cuisine would you call it: I would have to say Modern American Cuisine...putting a twist on some classics, like our chicken and dumplings made with fresh gnocchi.
If your food was a song what song would it be: I would have to say "Everybody Wants Some" by Van Halen for sure! I taught my daughter Lily that song when she was 3 and she would run around the house singing it with me. I would sing "Everybody wants some" and she would sing "I want some tooooooo!"
What's your guiding principle about cooking: Keep it simple. Don't over season and cook to have fun. It truly is a celebration when cooking for family and friends!
Name one mentor in the kitchen and the most important thing he/she taught you: Brian Tess from the Arizona Biltmore back in 1993. It was my first real culinary experience. He told me as a chef and a leader always be the same person every day when you come into work. Don't let your staff see you in any different way no matter what is going on in your personal life -- a very tough thing to do but it works. You always have to be the one to lead your staff. If they see that you are down for some reason it rubs off on them and then onto the food and service for sure! Brian was a great chef I miss him, may he R.I.P.
What's your favorite cookbook: Really there are too many but I would say for a fun approach to food it would have to be Flavor by Rocco Dispirito. For amazing food and presentation all around it would be Eleven Madison Park.
Name your favorite ingredient to cook with and why: Tough one as well because there are so many. Definitely a good sea salt and some great olive oil. I could use those to really make some great dishes. Just sprinkle that salt and drizzle the oil on some heirloom tomatoes and forget about it man!! You must season your food and the olive oil can be used in so many ways hot or cold!
The most overrated ingredient is...I don't really think there is one. I mean sometimes things get played out! I vowed not to get truffle oil at the Taphouse but I caved the other day. It's funny after not using it for about sixth months, I really missed it!
One food trend you wish would go away: Chef's naming their food after fast food items. I always hear about chefs saying that fast food sucks and they don't eat it, but yet they try hard as hell to re-create the Big Mac and even call their burger "Mac something or other." Just admit you enjoy one every now and again!
The house taps.
Your current obsession: Speaking of burgers I could enjoy a great burger and fries every day. Love it!
What are your thoughts on Phoenix as a food town: I think since I moved here in late 1992 it's gotten a hell of a lot better. There are so many great local restaurants and markets available. I am so proud of Arizona and being a chef here! Our chef community is amazing.
Describe one meal you will never forget: The miso cod and black truffles at Nobu Matsahisa in Beverly Hills. I will never forget it. I could smell the fresh truffles coming my way before it even got to the table. I had to order two of them because it was just that bad ass!
A local chef you admire: Actually there are two. Razz Kamnitzer (Razz's Restaurant and Bar) is just a genius in the kitchen. His food is so simple yet has so much flavor and his restaurant is just amazing. The second would be Jagger Griffin from Ocean Prime. His skill set is amazing, he is just a great teacher and friend. Love the Prime!
What's the scariest moment you've ever had in the kitchen: Well I would have to say it happened before I even stepped foot into the kitchen. It was my first sous chef job at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn. I knew I was playing with the big kids now!
Your go-to spot for cheap eats: Tacos Jalisco's or New China Gate. Both are great!
Your drink of choice and where you like to get it: Beer of course. I enjoy an ice cold Bud Light at home...I guess that's the red neck in me coming out! Or I go to New China Gate for their $2.50 Heineken!
What's your pet peeve in the kitchen: Keeping the window clear and clean at all times. I can't stand it when cooks try to plate or garnish something in the window or place unnecessary items in the window!
And your pet peeve when you're dining: I don't really get out much but really just having unfriendly service. I feel if I'm coming out to spend good money on a dining experience then it should be just that, an experience!
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Marisa Lown -- Radical Cupcake Brian Konefal -- Coppa Cafe Kelly Fletcher -- The Revival Bob Tam -- Bitter and Twisted BJ Hernandez -- Havana Patio Cafe Matt Taylor -- Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden Jennifer Russo-Fitzgerald -- The Market by Jennifer's Jared Lupin -- Umami Michael O'Dowd -- Urban Vine Dennis Delamater -- The Post Doc Brown -- Doc Brown's Artisan Ice Cream Josh Bracher -- Second Story Liquor Bar Chris McKinley -- The Local Chris Mayo -- Central Bistro James Fox -- Bootleggers Jay and Christine Wisniewski -- Caffe Boa Joe Absolor - Clever Koi Jason Grossmiller - Arizona Distilling Company Chris Collins - Grassroots Kitchen and Tap Perry Rea - Queen Creek Olive Mill Adam Brown - Noca Steve Kraus - Press Coffee Roastery Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli - Noble Bread Sasha Raj - 24 Carrots Nick LaRosa - Nook Joey Maggiore - Cuttlefish Country Velador - Super Chunk Sweets and Treats James Porter - Petite Maison Cullen Campbell - Crudo Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay
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