Chef Jay Bogsinke of St. Francis on Michael de Maria and the Death of Formal Cuisine

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Jay Bogsinke Chef St. Francis stfrancisaz.com 602-200-8111

This is part one of our interview with chef Jay Bogsinke of St. Francis. Bogsinke has been at St. Francis since August, when chef/owner Aaron Chamberlin decided to call in some extra firepower for the restaurant as he wrangles with the new Phoenix Public Market Café. Today, Bogsinke, who has been in the Valley since 1999, talks about his time at one of the city's most famous bygone spots, Michael's at the Citadel. Don't forget to come back Tuesday when he talks about how his upbringing in Chicago inspired him to want to cook.

Though once known for his fresh takes on classic comfort foods and affinity for pork, Bogsinke says he's undergone a sort of personal renaissance of late. Since last Christmas, he's lost about 40 pounds by eating fresh, simple, and healthier food. Coincidentally, the lifestyle change set him up perfectly for this gig at St. Francis.

Since opening in 2009, Aaron Chamberlin's Central Phoenix restaurant has become a cozy spot known for celebrating farm-to-table food without much fuss. There's a wood-fired oven and no freezers at this place -- except for the one that holds the gelato.

Bogsinke admits it's a not a scene where he always would have fit in. He comes from the type of formal, admittedly pretentious dining styles that were on trend not so long ago.

Bogsinke arrived in Phoenix in 1999 and kickstarted his career in the city when he started working at Michael's at the Citadel. Bogsinke claims chef Michael de Maria as his "culinary father," explaining that it was under his direction that he learned about the importance of exceptional technique and value of highly manipulated cuisine.

"Everything was about technique," Bogsinke says. "Everything was about ego. At the end of the night, we thought we kicked ass. We thought we out-cooked everyone."

He compares the in-kitchen experience to "gladiator training," fiercely competitive and intense. But Bogsinke also knows that type of expensive, showy cuisine is fading to the background these days.

"It's just over," he says. "But it made us who we are."

"Us," refers to the whole crew of young guns who gained their chops at Michael's, among them chef Matt Carter and baker extraordinaire Tammie Coe. After leaving Michael's, Bogsinke would go on to spend three years at Carter's Zinc Bistro before moving on to a job with LGO Hospitality Group.

It was while he was working there that he became fast friends with Aaron Chamberlin. They were both there in the "very beginning, beginning stages" of things and according to Bogsinke, came up together within the company. He spent about three years with LGO, and then went back to working with Carter at the short-lived Nine 05 restaurant downtown.

Most recently he's been heading things up at District, the restaurant at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix Hotel. And to say that Bogsinke is happy to be downsizing would be an understatement.

"Coming here is about simplifying," he says of the move to St. Francis.

Bogsinke says he and Chamberlin "ironed out a deal" for his move casually, while chatting over at the Phoenix Public Market Cafe. Bogsinke had been visiting the chef's other restaurant on breaks from work and with his recent lifestyle changes, it just sort of fit.

"I just did it," Bogsinke says. "I just jumped."

Describe St. Francis in five words: Eclectic, seasonal, honest, neighborhood, farm-driven

One thing you can't cook without: Salt.

Favorite childhood food memory: My favorite childhood food memory was the holiday season. My mom and grandma baking cookies. They would cover every counter in the whole house with cut up paper grocery bags with cookies cooling on them.

One thing most people don't know about you: I speak Arabic.

If your food was a song it would be: "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin

The last thing you watched/read: The last thing I watched was Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations: Sicily. The last thing I read was Eggs by Michelle Roux

Your biggest influence or inspiration: The food I grew up eating is my biggest inspiration.

The biggest challenge you've faced in your career and how you overcame it: Controlling my passion/temper is my biggest challenge. How I overcame it? I turned 40.

If you could dine with any five people, who would they be and where would you eat?: I would dine with my grandfathers and uncle that have passed and I would eat at my grandma's house; an 80s-style Christmas dinner.

What are you most looking forward to about this season?: I am looking forward to creating new dishes solely based on what the farms give us.

Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay

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