Chef Chat: Josh Hebert, Posh

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If you understand the concept behind Posh -- a first-of-its-kind, "improvisational" kitchen in Scottsdale -- then you understand its chef and owner, Josh Hebert.

"I can be a little frenetic sometimes, yeah," he admits.

Creative is more like it.

A more traditional chef might call what Herbert does at his sleek, interactive restaurant madness. He calls it fun. Talking to Hebert is more like talking to your high school buddy than a well-reviewed chef. If he's been jaded by the restaurant business, it's hard to tell. When he talks about his six month-old baby-of-a-restaurant, his enthusiasm is contagious.

Posh is a culinary experiment that is succeeding -- making both its chef and the eaters of the Valley look smarter and cooler with every bite.

There is no menu and no set closing time (the Web site says "5 p.m. - ?") The kitchen is in the middle of the dining room, and the ordering system is what Hebert refers to as "bass-ackwards:" You cross off what you don't want to eat on a slip of paper that looks something like a confused sushi menu -- and leave the rest up to Hebert and his crew of seven trusted chefs.

"We have a rough list of about 100 dishes that we could throw together at any given time," he says.

Herbert happened upon his trademark idea while working at the now-defunct restaurant Dual in Gilbert a few years ago.

"The best ideas are all accidents, right?" he asks no one in particular. "So, as a joke (but partly serious), I looked at the manger and I said, 'Dude, put a little thing on the top of the menu that says, four courses: $45; five: $55; six: $65; seven: $75 -- and the kitchen will just go off-the-cuff."

"And people started ordering it," he says, sounding surprised. "It was ridiculous!"

A Scottsdale "almost native" who grew up on 91st St. and Cactus when it took 15 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store, Hebert started cooking when he was 12 ("to impress women") and became a line cook at Tarbell's by 17. A week after his 19th birthday, he was named their Sous chef.

He spent nearly four years cooking in San Francisco before he landed in Tokyo at the Miyako Hotel. He was 26 years-old and living it up. ("I'm not gonna lie," he says. "It was fun.")

When we ask him to name the best dish he's come up with, a discussion ensues. "We

talk about this a lot, actually," he says, calling over Chef de Cuisine Zac Zaun. Out of the 10,000 dishes they've done, he asks, "If you were to look at one thing that you were just like, 'Man, that was bad-ass.'"

A few minutes later, the two tick off several dishes: A braised short-rib with a goat cheese crema, beet leather and chanterelle mushrooms; white pepper and cherry-braised bacon; and their popcorn soup.

"And anything we're doing today, really," Zaun adds with a chuckle.

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