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: A guy who takes his sushi very seriously.
Tastemaker 29: Jason Alford
See also: Chef Jason Alford of Roka Akor
From a small town in Oregon (a place where eating local is a way of life, not a culinary trend) to the Valley of the Sun comes chef Jason Alford, the mastermind at one of the Top 10 Sushi Spots in the United States according to Bon Appetit: Roka Akor. Behind the flaming robata grill you'll find Alford turning out creative renditions of traditional Japanese favorites and omakase menus to rival the best. Alford earned his chops under Scottsdale kitchen legend, Anton Brunbauer and has been minding the flames at Roka Akor since the restaurant opened in 2008.
I arrived in Phoenix with... all my belongings in one arm....and a phone number for a job.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... first and foremost, father and grandfather - both huge influences regarding my craft and education - and Junior Kimbrough, a blues guitarist and underrated for his time. Not the most prolific player but his style of play is almost hypnotizing. Then of course, Bourdain, for reasons I think every chef knows. To round it out George Carlin...I'm eating well, laughing my ass off, drinking heavily, laughing more and listening to some amazing blues....I think there is only one other thing I am missing to make life complete.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Petite Maison. Consistency, food and service it's always stellar. Hats off to John and Dustin for the best service in the valley.
One menu item this city could do without is... over-processed 'food'. Enter an open kitchen, not only do you get interaction on a nightly basis with your guests, when they ask you where you eat, you get to refer them to the best restaurants in the Valley. Everyone in the industry here knows what everyone else is serving.... If I put my name out there I'm going to send them to the right place. Citizen, FnB, Nobou, Christopher's, Petite, The Parlor...it's all about education, right? Positive thing is, I like to think the list of great independent restaurants is growing.
My last meal in Phoenix would be... in my backyard, BBQ roaring. German, Mark, Cebian, Justin, Bret, EJ, White Guy, Ko-San and, of course, Porch. A good old fashion chef party where we over-serve and overeat, and B.S. until the sun comes up.
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