From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Executive chef Mel Mecinas built a successful culinary career after years of learning from the some of the best chefs in the business. He got his humble start in 1986 working as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant with his father, but eventually landed a job at the soon-to-open Patina in downtown Los Angeles. Mecinas credits his nine years working with Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur Joaquim Splichal as the backbone of his training. He left the Patina Group in 1997, and has now been with Four Seasons for almost two decades. At Talavera, Mecinas and his team create fare inspired by the chef's hometown of Oaxaca, often using local and organic ingredients.
Today he dishes on his go-to place for coffee and the best lesson he learned cooking with his parents.
My go-to place for coffee and breakfast in Phoenix is Press Coffee. There is no better coffee around, and their cold brew is great for cooling down in the summer and getting a big kick of energy — plus they just started serving fantastic brunch items!
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is Oaxaca Restaurant Mexican Food at 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road. My family and I love the restaurant. It's 100 percent authentic. They’ve moved locations three times prior to their current one, and we’ve followed them to each one. You have to try the tlayuda, mole negro, molotes, and the botana Oaxaquena!
My perfect food day would be cooking on the grill and eating the food with my family in our backyard. Of course, with a bottle of wine.
The best lesson I learned from cooking with my parents was learning the basic fundamentals to become a chef: work ethic, dedication and passion. My father's motto was, "You can’t fix yesterday's mistakes but you can make today better than the day before." I try to live by that every day — in my cooking and in my life.
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The secret to staying happy when you work in a kitchen is being a self-motivator and self-driven. You cannot always rely on other people to push you. If I am not inspired on my own, no one else will be able to inspire me. I try to take in inspiration anywhere I can — from everyone around me. Also, my team will say that I love to change menus last minute — utilizing new ingredients or a different flavor combination. That constant creativity is what keeps me happy.
The 2016 Tastemakers so far:
100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm Shares His Go-To Place For Beer That Tastes "Like Arizona"
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company