It's been nearly two months since news broke that Christopher Van Arsdale, the one-man show behind Old Town Scottsdale's Café Monarch, would be leaving the charming spot after six years there. During his time as chef and owner, he built a reputation for on-the-fly dishes that often catered to his guests' preferences. And it wasn't just the food that people loved; it was the beauty of the space and the warmth with which he hosted diners.
In early August, he announced he would be leaving his restaurant in the hands of a new owner, Christian Lewkowicz, who had worked with him for a season the year before.
"[Christopher] built this place more for the love of cooking," Lewkowicz says. "It was never really a business to him, which was cool."
Over the summer, Lewkowicz -- whose history includes time at Bloom, Searsucker, and Stingray Sushi -- brought his friend chef Andrew Nienke into the fold, though the way it happened wasn't intentional. Nienke was working at Top Chef Brian Malarkey's Searsucker in Scottsdale when Lewkowicz asked him to come check out the space and give his thoughts on its potential.
"I fell in love with it," Nienke says. "I was like, 'Uh, yeah, this is happening.'"
For both men, it's fair to say that "this" doesn't just mean re-opening.
"Our main goal . . . is to really pay homage to Christopher," Lewkowicz says.
"Neither of us is so ego-driven that we think we need to fix something that wasn't broken," Nienke adds.