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.
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
Stand on the corner of Stetson Drive and Sixth Avenue in Old Town Scottsdale, and you'll find yourself in the heart of Peter Kasperski's restaurant empire. With more than 40 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Kasperski has been one of the most influential driving forces in the Scottsdale dining scene for years, bringing diners longstanding restaurants and a bar that's become one of the Valley's hottest drinking destinations.
Kasperski moved to the Valley in 1979 from his hometown of Chicago to join Steven Cafe & Restaurant, a job that took him from Lake Tahoe to the Virgin Islands. Later, he joined Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Bravo Restaurants — the folks behind restaurants such as Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas, RPM Italian in Chicago, and Scottsdale's Don & Charlie's — before opening Cowboy Ciao in 1997. In 2001, Kasperski opened Kazimierz World Wine as a tribute to his late father, and in 2012 added Cowboy Ciao at Sky Harbor airport (or, Sky Ciao) to the mix. Kasperski also co-owned Scottsdale's award-winning restaurant FnB before the restaurant moved from its original location on Stetson Drive.
Today, Kasperski dishes on his culinary guilty pleasures and his go-to places for a cocktail in Phoenix.
My go-to place for a thought-provoking dining experience in Phoenix is Nobuo at Teeter House. Even after partnering for eight years at Sea Saw, he just blows my mind. Honestly, best chef, Southwest. And probably well beyond.
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is not actually Phoenix. Scottsdale basically wins the day. Case in point, RAZZ in north Scottsdale. He deserves a James Beard award for time and creativity, but he just doesn’t care. The singularly best meal ever, outside of Nobuo. And no one knows. Plus, he’s kind of a spectacular human who sees the big picture. It’s kind of why he’s a secret.
The one thing most people don't know about me is ... go with this … [that] I'm shocked at the [Cowboy Ciao] alumni over the years. I'm surrounded locally and nationally by folks who have won the day. It wasn’t my goal. I may have taught well, or meant well, or chose well, but yeah, it resonates. Apparently I can find and coach talent. Maybe that’s a different answer for what I’m most proud of, but, sure.
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My culinary guilty pleasure is food at Don & Charlies. Au gratins, chopped liver, shrimp de jonghe. Very Chicago. But, as for a glass, I have been well documented for my affinity for green chartreuse. And yet, perhaps a brilliant grenache, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, or Sans Leige, Alban, or, hell, Grower Champagne.
My three favorite places for a drink in Phoenix are:
1. Crudo. Micah is perhaps a cocktail god. Go with God.
2. Durant's. Dark as midnight, history. Righteous martinis.
3. Scottsdale dive crawl — I know, it’s not just one. But, wow. Patties, Old Town Tavern, Tally Ho, Roadrunner, Coach House, TTs Roadhouse, and then finish at Pig & Pickle.
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