Chef-owner Christopher Van Arsdale, the one-man show behind Scottsdale's BYOB Café Monarch, has left the restaurant he started six years ago.
Located at 6934 East First Avenue (First Avenue and Goldwater Boulevard), the 1200-square-foot restaurant, which Van Arsdale decorated himself, was known for its intimate setting and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, many of which Van Arsdale created off-the-cuff based on his diners preferences.
"I never set out to be a one-man show," Van Arsdale tells me. "But the space was so small I couldn't see any other way to do it."
Van Arsdale spent several years working as personal chef, moving to Phoenix in 1995 from Long Island, New York, to cook for a TV producer client here. When that gig ended in 2003, he took on catering, interior, and landscape design work before opening Cafe Monarch in 2007.
Now 51, Van Arsdale says it's time for a lifestyle change and that he'd like to re-direct his energy into something new -- although at this time, he's not quite sure what that will be or whether he'll even remain in Phoenix.
"At Cafe Monarch, I got a lot of 'what ifs' out of my system," he tells me. "So much of it was about the food and the process of creation, not the money or the day-to-day operations."
Van Arsdale adds that the building's two-year lease made it difficult for him to build equity into the restaurant; but that new owners, Christian Lewkowicz, who worked with Van Arsdale for half a season at Cafe Monarch, and Lewkowicz's uncle, are going to make a go of it. He says the two will keep the name of Cafe Monarch, have applied for a liquor license, and will hire a new chef who may or may not keep the Mediterranean cuisine and/or dishes in-tact.
Currently closed for the summer, Van Arsdale says that Cafe Monarch, under its new ownership, is planning to open in September.
A note from Van Arsdale on Cafe Monarch's Facebook page reads as follows: "Cafe Monarch, is under NEW OWNERSHIP. I wish them every success imaginable & then some!
My thanks to everyone for helping make Cafe Monarch, a successful "passion project" & providing me w/ a playground to share some creativity & hospitality.
I've met so . . . many kind spirited people, over the years; although it's difficult to remember each & every special occasion . . . I consider it a gift & an honor to have spent time with you!
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Christopher J. Van Arsdale
P.S. please join my personal FB page, to see what I'll be cookin' up next? CHEERS!"