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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
Chef Kevin Binkley and Chef Mark Tarbell
Nikki Buchanan

5.) Kevin Binkley and Mark Tarbell Chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley's and Cafe Bink in Cave Creek switches places With Chef Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's located in Central Phoenix.

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
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.



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