100: Tracy Dempsey

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, we begin our countdown with one of the sweetest pastry chefs around -- and we're not sugar-coating a thing.

Tastemaker 100: Tracy Dempsey

After growing up around the world, Tracy Dempsey moved to Phoenix in 1994. In the late '90s, after a short career as a language teacher, Tracy turned to one of her original passions, the culinary arts, and eventually became one of the Valley's foremost name in desserts and confections. Following training at Scottsdale Community College and stints at several of the Valley's fine dining restaurants, Tracy launched her own business in 2009: Tracy Dempsey Originals. Her famous creations include Bacon Pecan Brittle (made for Cowboy Ciao in 2004) and Shoyu Caramels (made for chef Nobuo Fukada's now-defunct See Saw). She does mind-bending things to bacon, and her marshmallows are all the rage.

I arrived in Phoenix with... a futon strapped to the top of our air-conditionLESS car, two yowling cats, and no job in mid-September 1994.

If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... Eric Ripert, Marcel DeSaulniers, Claudia Fleming, Josh Homme, and Will Shortz. Of course, there would have to be a seat for my husband, too.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is...Rosita's on University and Hardy in Tempe -- their spinach enchiladas and red chile machaca are hard to beat.

One menu item this city could do without is... anything cooked without passion, love, and thought.

My last meal in Phoenix would be...anything Bernie Kantak (of Citizen Public House) has dreamed up -- his pickled pork cheeks would rank high on my wish list.

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