From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Today: The man who has made Gilbert safe for hipsters.
Tastemaker 10: Joe Johnston
See also: Joe Johnston's Perfect Food Day
Not everyone gets to see their vision come to life, but take one look at the green lawns and white porches of Agritopia and you're looking at Joe Johnston's dream come to fruition. Johnston went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and Stanford to be an engineer and worked as an engineering consultant. But don't let his well-polished exterior mislead you - he's a farmer's son, who grew up on the family farm that has now become the ultimate example of urban agriculture. Between the Farm Grill, his Real BBQ and Liberty Market, you can taste a variety of expressions of Johnston's culinary style.
I arrived in Phoenix with... with my parents and baby food: I was 2 years old.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... 1. My wife Cindy: we are inseparable and she really knows her food. The Lebanese are also famously hospitable and fun. 2. Jesus: He gets a bum rap for being a killjoy, when I am sure he would be the most enjoyable and interesting guest of all time. If he chose to turn water into wine, it would be the best ever made. 3. Thomas Keller: I have so much respect for his focus and attitude on food, service, and the restaurant business. Such a gentle, yet passionate man who has had tremendous influence, even on the local dining scene. 4. Kevin Binkley: A disciple of Thomas Keller, I never tire of his explanation of how and why he is preparing a particular item. No detail is below his scrutiny, yet he is unfailingly gracious. 5. Todd Bostock: The man who will, against serious odds, propel AZ wine into the limelight. He is funny, self-deprecating, and insatiable in his desire to improve his product and process while being a team player and AZ food proponent.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Comedor Guadalajara. Not fancy, not famous, not hipster, not foodie, not expensive, BUT when I think of the Valley, I think of AZ-Sonoran Mexican food. Comedor is the mother of all such restaurants in the Valley. It is huge, windowless, frequented by the locals and the Phoenix power brokers (very busy), and fast (don't let the wait deter you). The menu has all of the standards and then some and the quality is excellent. If you are looking for cotija cheese, forget it. This is the land of mild cheddar or longhorn. Just be prepared for a feeling of drowsiness to come over you about two hours after you eat. Give in and take a brief siesta.
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One menu item this city could do without is... nachos of all varieties, Velveeta through über fancy - it is a pretty lazy dish that gets kinda gross as it cools and becomes soggy/congealed.
My last meal in Phoenix would be... I am a fan of the entire State of Arizona culinarily, so I would relive my "Perfect Food Day" on my Vespa. The only change I would make is at the very end. Sadly, Canela Bistro will be no more, so I would dine at the home of the Bostocks (Dos Caezas Wineworks) and hopefully have some pork dish created from a hog their son had raised.
The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong 95: Eric Schaefer 94: Hanna Gabrielsson 93: Shinji Kurita 92: Silvana Salcido Esparza 91: Mike Pitt 90: Christina Barrueta 89: Christopher Gross 88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung 87: DJ Fernandes 86: Cullen Campbell 85: Chris Lee 84. Gwen Ashley Walters 83: Tony Morales 82: Lylah Ledner 81: Andrea White 80: Lori Hashimoto 79. Mrs. White 78: Eugenia Theodosopolous 77: Lou & Lovey Borenstein 76: Anthony Patafio 75: Carl Seacat 74: Sacha Levine 73: Sharon Salomon 72: Johnny Chu 71: Susie Timm 70: Jason Silberschlag 69: Gina Miller 68: Cindy Gentry 67: Amy Binkley 66: Dave Anderson 65: Mark Tarbell 64: Marianne Belardi 63: Audrey Lasalle 62: Brandon Gauthier 61: Brad and Kat Moore 60: Denise Clayton 59: Nobuo Fukuda 58: Richie Moe 57: Robin Trick 56: Alberto Della Casa and Letizia de Lucia 55: Farah Khalid 54: Dave Andrea 53: Vincent Guerithault 52: Danielle Leoni 51: Stan Zawatski 50: Maya Dailey 49: Duc Liao 48: Lisa Reinhardt 47: Isam Saed 46: Greg Peterson 45: Marco Bianco 44: Mark Fratu 43: Wendell Crow 42. Barb Harris 41: Michael Perry 40: Jeff Kraus 39: Ryan Avery 38: Charleen Badman 37: Damon Brasch 36: Dwayne Allen 35: Jason Asher 34: Pamela Hamilton 33: Victoria Chavez 32: Giovanni Scorzo 31: Tim Wilson 30: Travis Nass 29: Jason Alford 28: Clint Spotleson 27: Daniel Wayne 26: Korina Adkins 25: Carla Wade Logan 24: Jeff Zimmerman 23: Gabriele Bertaccini 22: Claudio Urciuoli 21: Peter DeRuvo 20: Natalie Morris 19: Eliot Wexler 18: Sam Fox 17: Bryan Dooley 16: Bernie Kantak 15: Jim Cerreta Sr. 14: Josh Hebert 13: Michael Brown 12: Dave Johnson 11: Chrysa Robertson