Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis: Chef Chat, Part Two

Yesterday we heard from Chef Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis. Today the conversation continues.

Though Chef Chamberlin worked for nine years with French chefs in the U.S., he decided that St. Francis wouldn't be pigeonholed. 

Rather, he wanted to utilize the talents he has on his staff, allowing room for improvisation and constant change in the menu and style of the food.

While he focuses on serving fresh, seasonal food, he also realizes that summertime in the desert makes this a new kind of challenge. He therefore maintains relationships with farmers in California to keep fresh products coming in.

Family also has a lot to do with his style, and he talks with New Times about cooking on childhood camping trips, grilling at home, and what exactly the Phoenix food scene could use a little more of.

Signature Dish: I have to say, one thing that I love is [our] seafood cioppino, which is basically a seafood soup that we cook in our wood-burning oven. I think that it's very unique -- you're not going to find anything like it in Phoenix. Also, our [sourdough] bread is baked in the wood burning oven as well. It's artisan [and] hand-crafted. That's something that's unique to us and is a signature item.

Eating as a Youngster: I grew up with seven brothers and sisters, so there [are] eight kids total, and my mother loved to cook. The biggest thing when I was younger is [that] I was a boy scout. Whenever I would go on camping trips I was really interested in planning my meals for my scouting trips. And my mother and I would make sure that every day was planned. Most of the boy scouts were eating SpaghettiOs and I was eating fish over the coals. I was so excited about being a boy scout, more because I got to go out on scouting events and cook over an open fire way more than I was excited about merit badges.

Home Cooking: I have actually a beautiful wood-burning grill at my house, so I will do a lot of grilling. When I cook at home I always cook very simple, and I like to do one-pot dishes. Also, I work a little bit in Mexico, so when I'm at home and I have the leisure to cook whatever I want I tend to just want to cook some carne asada with guacamole or something like that.

Phoenix Food Scene Needs More: I wish that there were more ethnic restaurants. I wish there was a bountiful plenty of Thai restaurants, and Vietnamese. And I know that we have them, and they're few and far between, and I just wish there was more support from the locals here to bring more diversity in there and have more ethnic restaurants.

Toughest Kitchen Lesson: You're only as good as the dish you just put out.

(This was part two of our interview with Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis, check out part one and stay tuned for one of Chamberlin's recipes tomorrow... )

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