Thank god for the corporate food world -- it's what brought Chef Kelly Fletcher to House of Tricks.
"I hated [the corporate] side of the industry," Fletcher says. "I was with an entire room of guys and girls with tattoos and piercings that had to break down our entire look to go just in and cook for people that were spending two nights in a hotel. The creative freedom just didn't exist."
Fletcher jumped the corporate ship and eventually found a much more suitable home -- House of Tricks -- where he's been consistently reinventing the menu for more than six years.
In his spare time, he's still causing trouble, forming a coalition to battle the War on Salt, drooling over anything pickled and working on a VLT (Veal, Lettuce and Tomato).
The Phoenix native foodie -- a rare breed-- checks in with us this week to talk about his love of Mexico, gochujang and his sous chef.
Personal Cooking Style: I'm a Francophile. I've been trained in classic French technique and style, but it's not really where my food passion is, which is funny. My passion in food is absolutely Mexican. I love Mexico, I love Mexican food. So when the House of Tricks owner hired me, I think it was because of my French background thinking, 'Oh, this is going to be great!' But once I got a little bit of power and control of the menu, all the moles and different sauces started coming out on the menu. Then it was like every menu I was doing was so much Mexico. I think it's driving the owners out of their fucking minds.
House of Tricks' Style: I was asked to explain our style and New American is what I came up with. I'm mixing all sorts of crazy flavors from literally all over the place. But really, we're whatever the hell we want to be. We're an independent restaurant we've been here more than 20 years -- try to stop us.
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Favorite Ingredient Right Now: Gochujang (Korean pepper paste). It's the craziest sensation, it's almost gritty in a way, but spicy and sweet. I can put it on anything -- even on a pickle.
Overrated Ingredient: I don't think there's such a thing. I can't think of anything I've put in my mouth that I didn't like or enjoy. I think anyone can put their own spin on something and always make it cool. There's always going to be someone who says, "Oh you don't like that? Wait until you try it like this."
Kitchen Rules: I'll bet you, if you ask my staff, they would have 5000 of them. I think the one that would stand out the most is that I hate mistakes. I tell my guys all the time that we are not designed to make mistakes. There's no reason for it, especially when it's something we're doing a hundred times a day. Why could we not do it right the sixtieth time? There's just no logic in that.
(Stay tuned for part two of our Chef Chat with Kelly Fletcher tomorrow ... )