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.
22. Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals
In 2004, when Tracy Dempsey decided to put bacon in pecan brittle, pork belly wasn't quite the fan favorite meat it is today. In fact, at the time, people told Dempsey the idea of bacon in dessert was "disgusting," the chef told us back in 2014.
Today Dempsey's Bacon Pecan Brittle is the signature offering of her confection company, Tracy Dempsey Originals, a sweet treat that's pretty much legendary around metro Phoenix. You can find Dempsey and her desserts at some of the Valley's best restaurants including Crudo, The Gladly, and Nook, as well as her confections on sale at local shops such as Botanica and the Farm at South Mountain, Arcadia Premium, and Bodega at FnB.
In a past life, Dempsey taught French and ESL at several universities, before making the decision to delve into the world of the culinary arts. In her early career, she worked at some of the Valley's top restaurants — spots such as Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn, Restaurant Hapa, Gregory’s World Bistro, Cowboy Ciao, Kazimierz, Sea Saw, and Digestif — then set out on her own in 2009 under the name Tracy Dempsey Originals. Recently, she opened the doors of her Tempe bakehouse to the public, offering retail sales and occasional classes from the cozy shop.
Dempsey is also an active member and secretary of Les Dames d’Escoffier International Phoenix Chapter; a board member of the Scottsdale Community College Culinary Arts Program; and a board member of The Joy Bus, a nonprofit organization that provides meals to home-bound cancer patients.
Today, she dishes on her cheese obsession and what she'd be doing if she wasn't a pastry chef.
My go-to place for my cheese obsession in Phoenix is to my friend Lara, who, along with her husband Joel, is the owner of Arcadia Premium. They help me source fabulous cheeses to fill my needs.
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is the spicy cappicola (sliced paper thin) and black pepper bacon from the Pork Shop in Queen Creek.
Dessert should always be special, unique, and prepared with great ingredients and love, and then savored and enjoyed slowly in good company.
My culinary guilty pleasure is heavy cream, which is why you won’t find it in my home refrigerator.
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If I wasn't a pastry chef, I think I'd be a stay-at-home mom to three dozen kitties or a French teacher counting down the days until I can retire.
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
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
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild
49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab
48. Ramona Button of Ramona Farms
47. Justin Piazza of La Piazza Al Forno and La Piazza PHX
46. Andrew Gooi of Food Talkies
45. Jason Raducha of Noble Bread and Noble Eatery
44. Ty Largo of Awe Collective
43. Christopher Gross of Christopher's and Crush Lounge
42. Heidi Lee of Into The Soup
41. ET Rivera of Tres Leches Cafe
40. Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies
39. Bobby Kramer of The Brickyard
38. Jenna Reeves of Press Coffee Roasters
37. Sarah Chisholm of Phoenix Public Market Cafe
36. Bill Kennedy of Futuro
35. Jan Bracamonte of J. Lauren PR & Marketing
34. Erin Romanoff of the uprooted kitchen
33. Baker Mandy Bublitz
32. Tony Chanthavong of Snoh Ice Shavery
31. Donald Hawk of Welcome Chicken + Donuts
30. Krystal Bittner of Arizona Society of Homebrewers
29. Garrison Whiting of Counter Intuitive and Cowboy Ciao
28. Michelle Jacoby and Mark Lipczynski of Bite Magazine
27. Chris Osborn of Western Retail Advisors
26. Yasu Hashino of Yasu Sushi Bistro
25. Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar by Jennifer's
24. Bret Pont of Hobe Meats
23. Josh Hebert of Posh Improvisational Cuisine