Chef News

Chris Curtiss Dishes on Phoenix as a Restaurant Town and Why Working for a Jerk Isn't Always a Bad Thing

This is part two of my interview with Chris Curtiss, executive chef of NoRTH Arcadia. You can read part one of my interview with Chef Chris Curtiss here.

You seem so serene. What's great about your life right now: I got married in March. I live in a neighborhood I love, and I ride my bike to work everyday. I cook food I'm extremely passionate about, and I'm given the freedom and creativity I need to be comfortable. I work with fresh pasta and enjoy tinkering with pizza dough. I'm also getting to coach and mentor a staff so much larger than I've ever worked with before. I love that process.

What are two differences in working for a corporate restaurant and working for an independent?: Now I have support and stability. I spent 15 years on my craft, but I never had a chance to learn the business aspect of it. I needed it to complete my tool belt.

You're hungry for tacos. Where do you go?: Gallo Blanco!

Describe Phoenix as a restaurant town: Phoenix is young as a restaurant town. It has tons of potential, but we have some growing to do. I wish there was a higher level of density of good restaurants.

What do we need less of around here: Ego and self-centeredness.

Describe a meal you'll never forget and why it's so memorable: My first meal at Charles Nob Hill in San Francisco blew my mind. I was a very young, very green cook, and I'd never experienced a tasting menu with paired wines and perfect service. I remember every dish. The standout was crispy pig trotter paired with figs.

Name a culinary mentor and what you learned from that person: Ron Siegel. I truly learned how to cook from him, how to treat ingredients with respect, not over-manipulate them or try to make them something they're not. He's also the most humble chef I've ever met. He thinks of himself as just a cook and that is how I think of myself.

What about George Morrone?: Well, I learned how not to treat your employees, for one. He was such a horrendous prick. But I learned how to cook really fast under extreme pressure, all the while getting yelled at and having things thrown at me.

What is your strength as a chef?: I'm not sure yet. I am constantly working on becoming a better cook and chef.

Last meal on Earth -- what would it be: Toss-up between a hot dog at a San Francisco Giants home game and tajarin with white truffles. Tajarin is a noodle from the Piedmont. You shave it super-thin and toss it in butter and sage. It couldn't be more simple or more indulgent.

What's your guiding principle about cooking?: Cook with sincerity and passion. Let the food speak for itself.

Who would you love to cook for?: I would love to have a dinner party with the people that helped guide me in my path to becoming a cook. That would be an awesome way to show them my gratitude.

Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with:

Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles

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