Trading Places: Five Chef and Restaurant Switches We'd Like to See Happen in the Valley
After hearing that Chicago's Alinea and New York's Eleven Madison Park, two of the country's highly celebrated restaurants, will be trading chefs and staff for one week in the fall, it got us to thinking: What chef/restaurant switcheroos would we like to see in the Valley? Here are five we'd love to see happen. What would be yours?
Chef Kevin Binkley and Chef Mark Tarbell
Why This Trade?: Binkley, a semifinalist tapped for this year's James Beard Award (Best Chef Southwest), is noted for his inventive cooking style and daily-changing menu. Tarbell, also a nominee for the James Beard Award (Best Chef Southwest), beat Cat Cora on Food Network's Iron Chef in 2007. How far is the drive between Phoenix and Cave Creek? Too long for some. Why not bring the award-winning cuisine to folks in both cities?
The Payoff: Phoenix diners get Binkley's French-informed, modern American fare on a daily-changing menu including amuse-bouche creations that will leave them swooning. Cave Creek diners get Tarbell's exceptional contemporary American creations (double-cut pork chops, anyone?) made with fresh, organic ingredients and, a damn good glass of wine to go with them courtesy of the soft-spoken oenophile.
Chef Matt Carter and Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza
Donald Downes and Nikki Buchanan
4.) Matt Carter and Silvana Salcido Esparza Chef Matt Carter, of The Mission, Zinc Bistro, and The House in Scottsdale switches places with chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen in Phoenix and Scottsdale. (The desired chef switch would be at The Mission and Barrio Queen.)
Why This Trade?: In this cross-town switcheroo, Carter could focus his international culinary style on the cuisine of Mexico at Barrio Queen and Esparza could hone her "Euro-Mexican" fare (something she had planned for the now-defunct Silvana) as well as show off new dishes with a more modern take on Latin food at The Mission.
The Payoff: Barrio Queen diners get Mexican food with Carter's globe-trotting touches -- and with any luck, they'll arrive in the form of shareable plates. Guests at The Mission get a taste of Esparza's travels throughout Mexico inspiring delectable dishes of Latin cuisine with some creative kicks in the ass. Everybody wins.
Chef Josh Hebert and Chef Shinji Kurita
Why This Trade?: With Japanese food at the forefront, Hebert (where a stint in Japan acquainted him with omakase dining) could add his tasting-menu-only and specialized checklist (which includes the day's featured meats and seafood and any dietary restrictions) at ShinBay. Kurita could amp up the already adventurous experience at Posh with a highly unique, flavorful, and artfully presented omakase journey of Japanese food comparable to restaurants in New York and Los Angeles.
The Payoff: ShinBay diners get delectable, unexpected Japanese-inspired dishes from Hebert (think raw bluefin tuna served three ways). Guests at Posh get a taste of the top-notch Japanese cuisine that earned Kurita a James Beard Award nomination this year for his restaurant. It's a Japanese food Freaky Friday!
Chef Justin Beckett and Chef Charleen Badman
David Moore and FnB
2.) Justin Beckett and Charleen Badman Chef Justin Beckett of Beckett's Table in East Phoenix and Charleen Badman of FnB and Baratin in Scottsdale trade places to serve up their brand of local flavor for that restaurant's locals (in this case, we're going with Beckett's Table and FnB).
Why This Trade?: With both chefs bringing a decidedly locally focused offering of American dishes made with seasonal and nearby ingredients, Beckett can treat a intimate gathering of guests at FnB and Badman, who's used to the small stage of FnB, can bring her culinary mastery to the roomier Beckett's Table.
The Payoff: FnB diners could get cozy with Beckett's comfort food signature dishes like grits, shepherd's pie and, of course, a dreamy pie (fig and pecan comes to mind). Badman could treat a larger number of diners to her famous fried chicken and vegetables-turned-culinary-works-of-art (braised leeks with mozzarella, please). We'd hope both would do late-night offerings, too.
1.) Christopher Gross and James Porter
Why This Trade?: Longtime friends with a passion for French fare visit each other's establishment to treat Francophiles to signature delights.
The Payoff: Christopher's diners get a dose of Porter's scrumptious French onion soup, escargots, and steak frites plus a stellar wine list courtesy of Christopher's co-owner Paola Embry. Petite Maison's guests get dishes from James Beard Award winner Gross like pied de cochon (pig's feet) as well as the fantastic sous vide roasted foie gras. Will the two friends have a drink or two afterwards and warn each other about the booby traps they've left in the other's kitchen? We're hoping the answer would be yes.
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