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10 Metro Phoenix Chefs on the Biggest Issues in the Industry

Each and every industry has its issues. And the restaurant business is no exception. From finding talented staff to food costs, discover what these Phoenix chefs believe are the biggest issues within the industry.

What are the biggest issues facing the industry today?

Silvana Salcido Esparza, chef of Barrio Cafe 

Everybody is doing the same thing – hence, copycat chefs. I think that is an issue. Other chefs will say it’s due to lack of good staff. I disagree; I have plenty of excellent staff.

Gio Osso, chef of Virtu 

There's a group of new cooks (some, not all) in this industry that aren't willing to work hard for their success. They want it handed to them. They read a book and now they've mastered the craft.

Julie Moreno, chef of Jewel's Bakery and Cafe

What I see is a culture wanting everything fast. Take the time to sit and enjoy your meal, laugh with your friends, make eating an event again. Come in, sit down, relax … slow things down. Sometimes you just need to grab a sandwich that’s healthy fast, sure, we get it, and that’s what we are here for, but let’s start making meal time an enjoyment.

Chris Lenza, executive chef of Café Allegro at the Musical Instrument Museum

Definitely farm workers' rights and food waste, which are issues that chefs can have direct impact on. It’s so important to know where food is sourced from, and how much of it is going to waste. Our parent company, Bon Appétit Management Company, has made both of these issues huge priorities. One of the programs they have that is amazing to be a part of is called Imperfectly Delicious Produce. Tons of perfectly good produce is wasted every year because it doesn’t exactly match the food industry’s cosmetic standards. Some is left in the field to rot or gets rejected later down the line. But when you’re cooking a dish that involves slicing, dicing, and chopping, flavor matters a lot more than look. So we are trying to help fight this issue by using these “ugly” fruits and vegetables in the cooking process. It helps cut down on waste, and also helps put more money into the farmers' pockets.

Pauline Martinez, co-owner of Perk Eatery

Finding quality staff is the greatest challenge, currently. Additionally, increasing food costs and high rents are becoming more and more difficult to navigate in order to keep menu prices affordable for guests and profitable for owners.

Samantha Sanz, chef of Talavera 

One of biggest issues I see is the misconception of what it takes to be a professional cook. Professional cooking involves serious sacrifice, and often you are in the kitchen 12 hours a day and on your feet the entire time. You tend to eat after the rest of the world has eaten, you work early mornings or late into the night, and on holidays and weekends. The profession as a career is intense, and you need to have a keen sense of discipline. I am quite a romantic and believe you truly must want to cook for people, and it has to come from the heart. I think you can taste emotion through food. Care must go in for love to come out.

Another issue is lack of attention to detail. Details make all the difference, from technique to sourcing ingredients. Short cuts need not apply.

Becca Carlson, executive chef of Federal Pizza

Finding good talent. Cooks are a dime a dozen; however, in this day and age with the industry being as competitive and demanding as it is, its hard to find really committed, passionate, hardworking people anymore.

Cruz Robles, chef of Bevvy

The lack of availability of fresh organic produce and foods free of GMOs and pesticides. I understand that farmers have to do their best to stay in business, but I feel the quality of produce has suffered greatly over the last 20 years. I also feel the livestock industry must do better in the way it raises and slaughters animals to minimize suffering. As a chef, you have a daily connection to nature, and the world around it gives you respect for the life that is sustaining yours.

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Marcellino Verzino, owner of Marcellino Ristorante

GMOS! Authenticity of sustainable farming procedures when purchasing produce and proteins is a must. GMOS have contaminated majorities of our crops, which are detrimental to health. We need to be purchasing organic produce that is not only tasty but full of rich vitamins and minerals needed.

Garrison Whiting, executive chef of Counter Intuitive and sous chef of Cowboy Ciao

I think the biggest issues facing the industry are threefold. Over-saturation makes it difficult for good restaurants to succeed when there are so many mediocre to bad options for the diner to choose from. Misconception of products, service, and ambiance can lead to bad reviews or at the very least dissatisfied guests. The lack of passion in lower-level positions can lead to sub-par product and service. It’s so hard to find good help these days.

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