We're back this week for Chef Chat with architect-turned-restaurateur DJ Fernandes of Tuck Shop in Central Phoenix.
After attending architecture school in New Orleans and working for a firm in Phoenix, Fernandes was drawn into the restaurant business by a combination of passion for food and wine and desire for a new creative outlet. Since that time three years ago, he's built the best-hidden jewel in the local restaurant scene and is now looking to start two more.
Can you explain how you got into the business?
That's a great question. It's just come from the sort of evolution of a love of food and wine since college. I went to architecture school in New Orleans and the culture there is based around two things, food and wine, and its legendary. So it started there. After being out here for a number of years doing the architecture thing, I just wanted to take the creative process into a new direction. Something that's a little bit less time consuming and permanent. The creative process in architecture is just this laborious, arduous, seemingly never-ending process that takes place over a long period of time. So the food thing became a fun way to have something happen fast
Don't know what a tuck shop is? Find out after the jump.
Do you have an executive chef?
Well no, not with a business card and a fancy hat and stuff like that. But the guys in the kitchen are critical...crucial to what we do on day-to-day basis and the execution of, I don't want to say fine dining cause that's not what we do, but elevated dining and food products.
Where did the concept for Tuck Shop come from?
That sort of comes back to two difference roots. Tuck Shop the name comes from my boarding school days. A Tuck Shop tht is a British term for just a food purveyor and at our school it was a student run organization that everyone would congregate at after study hall in the evening. You'd go and you'd meet all your friends and you'd get some Doritos and Snickers bar and a Coke. The Tuck Shop was in the restaurant sense, more of a metaphor for what that was: a gathering place around food. Albiet then it was junk food and soda pop, now it's more constructed.
The location and look of the place is more a genesis of my New Orleans days where there are restaurants and commercial places and spaces in the middle of the neighborhood. So I thought what better than to introduce that to Phoenix where there are no commercial spaces within neighborhoods, there are no local watering holes. Then I thought, "Wow, what an opportunity. Here's this awesome building in the middle of this awesome neighborhood...let's try it. Let's do it."
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How did you come about developing the menu?
We tried to keep it from our spheres of influence so there's our Southern sphere of influence, a Portuguese sphere of influence from my family, and there's also a New England kind of thing. That was the initial starting point for the menu and how it got developed. Now, I think it's evolved and become a little bit more diverse but I think we're always keeping those things in the background as foundations.
Check back for Part 2 tomorrow.