Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Miss a question? Go here.
Sure, the Valley can claim a lot of talented chefs as its own. But what about the cooking scene as a whole? What would help make bad cooks good, good cooks better, and ready the next generation of tastemakers?
Here's what a few of our chefs and restaurateurs had to say on the subject:
Michael Rusconi, Chef and Owner, Rusconi's American Kitchen (Opening in September)
Spend the time to fully learn your craft. Students and cooks coming into the profession are in a rush to achieve the next cooking level but often don't understand the knowledge required to lead a kitchen. I encourage young cooks to take their time and learn from their chef. It's challenging because everyone has to pay their bills and the culinary profession doesn't really pay very well until you have reached a higher level.
Jeff Kraus Chef and Owner, Crepé Bar
Bigger appetites for originality, education, and experimentation -- and more "getting your hands messy" experience than paid education.
Gregg Troilo, Proprietor, British Open Pub & Grill
In an ideal world, in order to be a cook, one should begin at the bottom and "walk a mile" in all the positions in an organization -- from the lowest to the highest position in the organization. A cook needs to be able to see the big picture and to understand that every position is important and contributes to the customer experience. Check your ego at the door!
Kelsey Oisten, Director of Marketing, Caballero
Providing a blank canvas for your cooks to explore in the kitchen not only helps keep fresh and new menu choices but also helps your cooks to share and utilize new and old techniques.
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
Going to a great restaurant in New York to work for a year would make Phoenix look like a holiday.
Chef Ehren Litzenberger, BLD Chandler
More chefs that teach, train, and coach rather than scream and yell. Culinary schools teaching students rather than pushing them through the revenue factory.
Romeo Taus Chef and owner, Romeo's Cafe
A slightly more discriminating palate, appreciation of culinary passion, and knowledge of where your food comes from. Also, a community-based place where the "bottom of the hill" can be mentored, watch, and participate in a "Culinary Thunderdome" type of competition. That, I would love to be a part of.
Chef Jeremy Pacheco, Lon's at the Hermosa
Passion and drive. This is not an easy business. Cooks watch the Food Network and want to come out of school and be on the glamorous side (if there really is one) of cooking. They don't realize successful chefs have been in this business for years to reach where they are at.
Chef Kurt Jacobsen Hidden Meadow Ranch, Greer
There are a lot of great chefs to learn from in the Valley. Unfortunately, when a cook goes to work somewhere it's nose to the grindstone on learning what they do. All cooks need a good foundation in cooking techniques such as braising, sauteing, poaching, etc. Knowing why you are doing something is as essential as doing it.
Amanda Bayuk, manager/event coordinator, Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House
Increased ongoing training is the key to development in any position. It sometimes seems as though once someone is placed in a position the training ends and the person is only specifically responsible for their given tasks. A well-run kitchen is one in which cooks have the opportunity to experiment and grow.
Chef Steven Zimmerman, Sheraton Crescent Hotel
A stronger foundation and understanding of the fundamentals of cuisine can always help. It's important to learn the origins of the food or dish, how the ingredients were grown, and even why certain dishes are prepared the way they are. Cooking is a science, and sometimes we tend to forget the most meaningful things and look more at the presentation and not the flavor.
Chef Peter DeRuvo Davanti Enoteca
Continue to get better restaurants, with better chefs and sous chefs who actually mentor young cooks who want to learn, from the bottom up, just like, well most of the great cooks in the Valley -- and that's what we are all: cooks!
Chef Tim Fields El Santo Restaurant + Patio Bar
If all culinary students had some practical experience before attending school they would get more out of it and would be more valuable to prospective employers.
Charles Wiley Chef and Food and Beverage Director, ZuZu
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The best cooks are ones that are just insatiably interested in food. Chefs are nothing without great produce and markets. There are a lot of other wonderful farms around the Valley, numerous farmers markets, and fantastic grocery stores. You really have to spend time at the market to learn to cook well. More awareness about farms and markets will enable our chefs to become better.