Many restaurants that use local produce love to brag about the fact, plastering the words all over their menus, windows, and Web sites. But you won't see Wade Moises use hip buzzwords like organic and locally-grown on his menu.
What he does say is that creating dishes from local foods should be the rule, not the exception. As Moises sees it, it shouldn't be a big deal for a restaurant to buy ingredients locally. In Italy, Moises says, regions and towns will have their own special dishes made with area-specific foods, and that's just how Italian food is done.
Moises opened PastaBar in downtown Phoenix in February with a focus on simplicity and quality of ingredients, using locally grown produce to comprise each dish. But his journey to opening his own restaurant took him from biker bars to Babbo, Mario Batali's famed New York City restaurant.
At 18, Moises took his first steps into the food industry as the manager of a biker bar, which, according to him, was frequented by members of the Hell's Angels. While the bar specialized mostly in burgers, steaks, and fries, Moises says the owners ate there everyday and paid a lot of attention to making good food that they would want to eat.
The biker bar introduced Moises to the social aspect of working in a restaurant and sparked his interest in cooking, but it was his next job that he says really "introduced him to ingredients."
In the mid-90's, Moises took a job cooking in a restaurant in a hotel in Colorado. He said the connection to the hotel gave the restaurant a budget that allowed them to use the finest ingredients. This is the place that Moises says he first ate a mushroom or tomato and liked it.
Moises' skills were refined as he went through culinary school in New York, and then interned with Mario Batali at Babbo. Batali took the time to train every employee, and spent time in each of his restaurants, according to Moises.
"He really had his hands in everything," Moises said.
This congenial mild-micromanaging philosophy carried through for Moises to this day. As we sit at the bar and talk, a kid drops by to put in a resume, and Moises stops to talk to him personally, not even mentioning that this is his restaurant.
Moises came to Arizona to be the chef at Sassi, a fine Italian restaurant in North Scottsdale, but after several years there, he decided to open PastaBar in a cozy little downtown location. He cites his combined love of Pizzeria Bianco, the available spaces nestled right in the middle of the city, and First Fridays Art Walk as reasons for making the move downtown.
However, Moises' main focus will always be with his ingredients.
His advice to diners is to "never eat at chain restaurants," and his advice to restaurateurs is "buy locally."
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