Look Who's Cooking

Former Arizona governor John Fife Symington III was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and now he'd like to stick one in ours. Ever since he abruptly resigned his political post in 1997 after a federal fraud conviction of using false financial statements to obtain loans, he's been vocal about wanting to pursue a culinary career.

Now that his sleepless nights are settled -- thanks to a convenient pardon last year from President Clinton, he's no longer worried about going to prison -- Symington is going full steam ahead with his dream of chefdom. He's got his very own culinary school to play with, and soon, his own restaurant. This spring, Symington debuted the Arizona Culinary Institute in Scottsdale. And early next year, he'll be opening a new Italian restaurant at the Esplanade in Phoenix. It's called Franco's Italian Café, headed by longtime Valley chef Franco Fazzuoli.

Pretty nice toys for someone who's spent the last several years pleading poverty.

It's not his money, though. Symington serves as just an assistant and adviser to the school and will be a mere pastry chef at the cafe. The $2 million cooking academy is funded in part by his wife, Ann, through her corporation, Fleur de LLC. She's listed with the Arizona Corporation Commission as officer and director for the school. And the only name showing up on the trademark papers for the Italian Café is Fazzuoli's.

Franco's Italian Café will be taking over the space currently occupied by Roy's at 24th Street and Camelback. The planned menu is casual, focusing on classic pastas, pizzas, meat and fish. (Roy's in Scottsdale will remain open, and another Roy's is underway at Desert Ridge in north Phoenix.)

It's a tough life. After his conviction was overturned on appeal, Symington had to do something while cooling his heels waiting for prosecutors to pursue a new trial. So he enrolled in the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, graduating in 1999. He also worked as a pastry chef for Franco's, Fazzuoli's previous restaurant in Scottsdale. And he found time to create and share recipes, posting them on the 1st Traveler's Choice Internet Cookbook.

Hopefully, Fazzuoli will stick to his own mouthwatering recipes for his restaurant, however. Symington's takes sound positively mundane, including turkey sopa, a casserole of tortillas, taco sauce, cheese and canned cream soups; and lasagna, fashioned from ground beef, canned tomato sauce, cottage cheese and mozzarella.

In fact, Fazzuoli might do well to keep the ex-gov strictly on pastry duty. Too many crooks spoil the soup, after all.


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