They are visionaries, highly devoted to their craft, inventing fresh ideas for dishes in kitchens all over the Valley using top-notch ingredients and seasonal fare. We love their food, expect an experience nothing short of spectacular when we dine at their establishments, and (sometimes) even giggle with delight at the mere mention of their names.
They are our 10 favorite chefs in metro Phoenix. And when it comes to tastemakers pushing Phoenix further toward a first-class food city, we're counting on these talented chefs to help us get there.
Vincent Guerithault Vincent on Camelback
Over 25 years ago, this legendary tastemaker came to Phoenix (by way of Chicago, by way of France), and the Valley's dining scene changed forever. Initially trained in classically prepared French haute cuisine, the James Beard Award winner became influenced by Southwestern ingredients and infused the two for a mouthwatering mash-up of flavors. From lobster chimichangas to duck tamales to sautéed veal sweetbreads with blue corn meal, Guerithault's French-Mex has kept diners coming back to his intimate Phoenix restaurant for years to get another taste.
Tracy Dempsey Tracy Dempsey Originals
This world traveler and former English teacher, best known for her dreamy desserts at former employer Cowboy Ciao, has quickly given the Valley a sweet tooth for her inventive desserts, like potato-chip ice cream and bacon brittle. In 2009, she established Tracy Dempsey Originals, a retail and wholesale line of boutique confections sold at local shops. In addition, Dempsey oversees the dessert programs at restaurants such as Crudo, Citizen Public House, and Karsen's Grill, where squeals of delight usually follow seeing her name on the dessert menu.
Tammie and M.J. Coe Tammie Coe Cakes and M.J. Bread
Here's a match made in deliciousness: Certified master baker and member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America Michael John Coe prepares breads from scratch, employs Old World practices, and sells signature breads to restaurants such as Breadfruit, Postino, and Bertha's Café. His gifted wife, cake queen Tammie Coe, shares the same space with M.J. and whips up sweet works of magic, many in the form of her ruffled fondant cakes. Snatch up both of what the dynamic duo has to offer at store locations in Arcadia and Roosevelt Row.
Josh Hebert Posh
This chef and owner behind a first-of-its-kind "improvisational" kitchen, tucked into the Optima Camelview condos in Scottsdale, serves up surprises of the most scrumptious kind. After stints in the kitchen at Tarbell's, as well as in San Francisco and Tokyo, Hebert opened his contemporary American restaurant in 2008. At Posh, there's a checklist to fill out -- how many courses, which of the day's featured meats and seafood you'd like (there's a vegetarian option, too), and other dietary restrictions. Want to see what Hebert can really do? Check the "chef's choice" box and enjoy the culinary ride.
Shinji Kurita Shin Bay
After closing his restaurant in Ahwatukee over six years ago, this chef with a reputation for being an eccentric perfectionist with an aversion to publicity returned to open his unassuming Scottsdale restaurant, Shin Bay, in 2011 and quickly caught the attention of the James Beard Foundation, which selected it as a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. Kurita's inspired Japanese cuisine and meticulously crafted dishes made from top-notch ingredients are nothing short of dazzling, but true love for his craft comes with the pricey ($100 and up) reservation-only omakase dinners, where Kurita rewards diners with a truly rewarding culinary experience.
As chef and owner of Scottsdale's FnB and the newly opened Baratin Cafe, Badman's locally focused fare is as fantastic as it gets. Born and raised in Tucson, Badman honed her skills in restaurant kitchens in Arizona and New York City before opening FnB with partner, friend, and front-of-the-house pro, Pavle Milic in 2009. With premium seasonal ingredients, Badman's contemporary American fare reflects an enthusiastic love for Arizona's food. And her five unique dishes that change regularly at Baratin Cafe make a strong case for a limited menu.
Nobuo Fukuda Nobuo at Teeter House
Earning a James Beard Award at his former restaurant Sea Saw before opening his humble yet contemporary bungalow turned eatery in Heritage Square, this Tokyo-born and -raised chef brings stellar Japanese cuisine to the Valley with delicious apblomb. A teahouse by day and a self-described funky izakaya (Japanese-style tavern) by night, Fukada's a master when it comes to elevating and re-inventing Japanese home-style dishes. And his omakase is a journey that leaves taste buds tingling with Far East flavors.
Christopher Gross Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge
As chef and owner of the chic French bistro at the Biltmore Fashion Park, one might think Gross' command of French cuisine would put his roots in the country as well, but the James Beard Award-winning tastemaker is Phoenix-born and -raised. Along with co-owner and sommelier Paola Embry's stellar selection of wines, Gross' top-notch cuisine -- from dreamy dishes like curried duck fries, truffle-infused filet mignon, and sous vide roasted foie gras -- keeps guests saying, "Plus, s'il vous plaît."
Mexican food or Mexican cuisine? In the case of this tough-as-nails chef and baker's daughter from Merced, California, it's kickass fare from the latter. From formal training and a year spent learning from -- and cooking with -- the people of Mexico, Esparza's brought her creative flair for south-of-the-border dishes to the Valley forefront. And with regional specialties at Barrio Cafe in CenPho and at her take on fast Mexican food at her newest restaurant, Barrio Queen, in Scottsdale, Esparza's barrios, or neighborhoods, are ones guests are happy to visit frequently.
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This 2012 James Beard Award finalist opened Binkley's, his fine-dining jewel with a cozy, unpretentious atmosphere in 2004 in (of all places) Cave Creek, and the Valley's dining scene changed forever. With an emphasis on top-notch, market-driven ingredients, Binkley's daily-changing menu of French-influenced American cuisine -- including the must-try customizable, multi-course tastings with clever amuses bouches -- keep diners making the journey no matter what the distance.
All our favorites lists also are available on our Best Of app -- see it in action here. And check out our other lists: