When did you realize you wanted to be a chef? When I was in my early 20s. I'd been cooking at different spots around Phoenix for a few years by then but never thought of it as a career -- I still I thought I was going to be a firefighter. But that was when I made the commitment to pack up and go to cooking school in New York City.
What's the most important lesson you learned during culinary school? You get out of it what you put in . . . Nothing more.
One dish that best describes your style of cooking? I tend to lean toward clean flavors, so probably the cool roasted beets dish with Greek yogurt, honeycomb, and mache lettuce that we're adding to the new menu. It's very simple, but there's an amazing clarity of flavor -- everything works together perfectly and has a reason for being on the plate.
Your earliest food memory: When I was a kid, my mom used to make this sautéed chicken dish with white wine and grapes. She served simply over egg noodles, and I loved it! I try to make it now, but it's not the same . . . I probably overthink it.
What drew you back to Phoenix? The plan was always to come back to Phoenix. I really like it here. I had a good offer to stay on as sous chef at my former restaurant (Savoy in NYC), but I had a plan and stuck with it.
The biggest misconception about French food is that: The food is always heavy and full of butter and cream. Some of the most classic dishes from the south of France, in particular, are very light and healthy.
Describe your vision for Central Bistro: Central is a great, contemporary bistro. It's the kind of place you can eat at two or three times a week, but also where you can celebrate a special occasion -- which is also why we offer such a diverse menu. I think my vision is best defined as pure, clean flavors and sound execution.
The three ingredients you think should be used more: Argumato lemon oil, Calabrian chiles, rabbit.
The more overrated ingredient: In my humble opinion, the most overrated ingredient is truffle oil.