Chef News

Chef Jason Alford of Roka Akor

Join us in this week's Chef Chat as we venture inside Roka Akor, Scottsdale's posh Japanese steak and sushi restaurant.

You might be surprised to see that the man behind the magic at one of the Valley's premier Japanese restaurants, Chef Jason Alford, is not actually Japanese. But doing things the traditional way is hardly the norm at Roka Akor. Inspired by London's Roka Restauraunt (which is headed by Chef Ce Bian, who was born in China), Roka Akor's roots are about as Japanese as well, Chef Alford's.

Behind the undeniably impressive robata that serves as the restaurant's centerpiece, you'll find Alford serving up creative renditions of traditional Japanese favorites like Grilled Berkshire Pork Belly with Marinated Beet Roots and Yellowtail Sashimi with Shallot and Poached Garlic Ponzu. We sat down with Chef Alford, whose omakase menus have been wowing diners since Roka Akor opened in 2008, to talk about his loyalty to high-quality ingredients and the evolution of the restaurant.

How did you find yourself working at Roka Akor?

I was going to go to a Fleming's [steak house] interview for like, a sous chef position and I couldn't find the place because I didn't know the area very well. I was just driving up and down...and this was in 2008 when they just built Roka, so I just pulled in here and walked in the back and I was like, "Who's the chef?" I talked to Bjoern Weissgerber, one of my other mentors and worked with him for about a good year and a half. We had a whole team from London that came over here. So these guys worked at Fat Duck, they worked at the top five restaurants in the world. Chef Ce Bian who opened was basically a team of culinary gurus and I happened to fall in their laps and I learned from everybody.

I got ten years of experience in like, two or three years it seems. Like a roller coaster.

And how did you develop your career from there?

Eugene's a very small town. It's a college town but it's like nothing spectacular. I worked at all the best restaurants in a matter of a year. So I came out here. Sold all my stuff and came out here with my clothes, my guitar and my knives. I was going to go to school and I started working with Anton Brunbauer (

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria