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.
Valley residents looking for a pastoral getaway in the middle of the city need look no further than The Farm at South Mountain, where owner Pat Christofolo has created a little slice of paradise — and several of metro Phoenix's top dining destinations.
Christofolo got her start in the food industry at her family's deli, Capistrano's, then struck out on her own to open Out For Lunch in 1981. In 1992, she launched Santa Barbara Catering Company in hopes of meeting the Valley's need for upscale catering. Today, the company is one of the largest and most recognized caterers in the state.
In 1997, Christofolo opened sister company Santa Barbara Cooks at The Farm, taking over culinary operations for The Farm at South Mountain. During the following years, she would go on to create two more restaurants on the property — Morning Glory Cafe and Quiessence — eventually purchasing 10 acres of the farm in 2012, including the land on which all three restaurants, Maya's Farm, the Artist's Studio, and the pecan grove sit. And in 2011, she opened Palette at Phoenix Art Museum, a restaurant she continues to operate today.
In addition to overseeing Santa Barbara Catering and the Farm restaurants, Christofolo is a member of a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International.
Today, she dishes on the biggest changes in the restaurant industry and her current obsession with little gem lettuces.
My go-to place for Italian comfort food in Phoenix is any and all of the Bianco restaurants.
My go-to place for exploration of unusual and ethnic flavor combinations using locally sourced food in Phoenix is FnB with [chef Charleen Badman].
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is the Monday special of pipian sauce (pumpkin seed) at Restaurant Mexico.
The biggest changes in the restaurant industry over the last 30 years have been the education levels of the consumer. The consumer has so many resources at their fingertips compared to 30 years ago. Consumers are easily educated on the nutritional information, health department information, where food is being sourced from, how to cook food from online resources, and the endless amount of cooking shows. This level of knowledge that the customer now has about the food has created higher expectations of the quality of food being produced. This in turn has created a more educated chef that holds themselves to a higher standard than before.
I'm totally obsessed with little gem lettuce salads and the abundance of locally grown fruits right now and totally over mac and cheese. Although you cannot always source the little gem lettuce, the texture and taste is what I crave this summer. At Santa Barbara Catering, we are doing a new hors d'oeuvre and treating the baby gem as a petite wedge salad. I make it at home with AZ Fine Swine bacon, heirloom tomatoes, and house-made blue cheese dressing.
I’m also obsessed with how we have extended our resources here locally in what fruit can be grown. The abundance of local apples, Asian pears, figs, citrus, plums, apricots, and peaches galore brightens dishes and showcases what Arizona really has to offer.
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The Valley could use more James Beard nominees and semifinalist nominations and less personal demand on the chef. It’s time that people stood up and took notice of the Phoenix culinary scene, especially when it comes to James Beard nominations. We have more independent chefs, and there is a creative fire that has been sparked in the last 10 years. In addition to our mainstay of chefs, we’re adding more and more progressive chefs that are fully engaged in the culinary scene. The look of dishes, tastes, flavor profiling, and how things are served are all being explored on the level of other big, national cities.
I think we need less personal demand on our chefs, who are oftentimes running one or two restaurants, taking care of a young family, working and managing a staff 80-plus hours a week, and then on top of that, being asked to do food festivals on their maybe one day a week off. This personal demand that has become a norm on chefs has been a change in the culinary scene, and at some point ,something will have to give, whether it’s the quality of food, the experience at the restaurant, or the reputation of the chef.
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
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB