Cullen Campbell Dishes on the Food Network Star That Pumped Him Up and His Favorite Local Dishes

Cullen Campbell at Crudo
Cullen Campbell at Crudo
Nikki Buchanan

This is part two of my interview with Cullen Campbell, chef-owner of Crudo. If you missed part one, where Campbell dishes about the catch-phrase he thinks is pointless and explains how he under-estimated his customers.

See also: -- Pete DeRuvo Dishes on the Phenomenal Chef Phoenix Lost to NYC and an Embarrassing Moment with James Beard Award-winner Johanne Killeen

Favorite thing to eat growing up: French Fries.

Favorite thing to eat now: French Fries. Kennebec potatoes make the best!

House-made ricotta with dried tomato, olive oil and basil
House-made ricotta with dried tomato, olive oil and basil

What's your guilty pleasure?: Foie Gras.

The great thing about being a chef is: Creativity.

The tough thing about being a chef is: The long hours.

The most fun you've ever had in the kitchen was when: Before we officially opened our current space, we held a Repeal Day Dinner here. I moved in an oven that day and had NO kitchen. It was bare bones. Just before I had to really start cooking, we discovered the oven was not just electric but gas as well. I pulled a MacGuyver and cooked 3 courses on a mini Weber and a small Fry Daddy. What a night!

If our cooking and eating habits explain our culture, what do our cooking/eating habits say about us now?: I think Phoenix is becoming a place to dine. Our community is getting behind our local chefs, who are using some unique ingredients. Our culture is becoming educated about food and wine and putting us on the map.

The most embarrassing thing I ever did as a chef: Not seasoning properly.  

Wild mushrooms, egg and garlic chive blossoms
Wild mushrooms, egg and garlic chive blossoms

Has your cooking changed over the years?: Yes, now it's more about enhancing the main ingredients rather than overpowering or masking them.

Name a giant in the American food scene and explain why you admire this person: Jean Georges [Vongerichten]. He's one of the innovators of fusion cuisine, and he's hands-on in his multiple restaurants.

Name a culinary mentor and explain what you learned from that person: Gregory Casale. He taught me to open my eyes to different flavors and how to balance a dish.

Was there a moment when you knew you'd be a chef, or was it a gradual process?: It was when I was in high school, watching Emerl Lagasse cooking on TV.

If you could jump on a plane tomorrow to try a new restaurant, which one would it be?: Red Medicine [Beverly Hills], and we are leaving Sunday. I can't wait to try it because it's a new style of fusion for me.  

Cullen Campbell at rest
Cullen Campbell at rest

Pet peeve in the kitchen: Too much chatter.

Guiding principle about cooking: Flavor is everything.

Name two local dishes you love to eat: Escargot pot pie at Elements and lobster at Hana Japanese.

Who would you most like to cook for?: Mario Batali.

Last meal on earth -- what would it be?: Pizzeria Mozza. Bone marrow, squash blossom and burrata pizza and butterscotch budino with a glass of Punta Crena Cruvin.

What should be written on your head stone?: He ate well.

Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: 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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