Chow Bella

Chris Curtiss Leaves NoRTH Fattoria Italiana for Bourbon Steak

Chef Chris Curtiss, who has spent the past 19 months implementing a house-made pasta program for Sam Fox's NoRTH Fattoria Italiana, is leaving Fox's organization to work for James Beard Award-winner Michael Mina at Bourbon Steak in the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess.

See also: -- Chris Curtiss Dishes On His First Phoenix Gig and Why Food Network Sucks -- Chef Kevin Binkley a Finalist for James Beard Award -- Bourbon Steak's Veronica Arroyo: Caramelpalooza Candymakers 2013

At first blush, it sounds counterintuitive that a chef who's built his reputation on seafood and made-from-scratch pasta would want to head up a steak restaurant. But consider:

Mina first made a name for himself at San Francisco's Aqua, a seafood restaurant.

Also consider: Curtiss will be an executive chef for a large and prestigious organization. He'll learn new skill sets and have a celebrity chef to put on his résumé. He takes the place of Daniel Patino, who resigned last week to follow his passion: sports management and coaching football.

Curtiss tells me, "We'll still do amazing steaks, but we want to have other options for people who may want something else. We want people to know we have more to offer than just great steak. I'll be bringing along the same top-notch seafood purveyors -- Ingrid and Peerless -- that I used at Noca."

Interestingly, Bourbon's menu already contains terrific non-steak options: whole-fried chicken for two, tapioca-crusted snapper, Maine lobster pot pie, seared scallops and ahi tuna pot roast -- which all sound pretty wonderful. Maybe it's a perception issue.

In any case, Curtiss, who starts somewhere between mid-April and early May, expects to roll out a new menu by fall. "I'm really excited; this is going to be an amazing partnership," he says, explaining that he just wants to get his feet wet, meet the staff (and maybe learn where the bathroom is) before he makes all sorts of projections.

Patric Yumul, president of Mina Group, says, "With any restaurant, there's an evolution. When there's a change in leadership, a restaurant either gets better or gets worse. Our goal is to get better. We've done well this past year, and we've put in a great new patio, but we've got a talented new chef, and we're excited to give him new challenges."

As for Sam Fox, he says he's not really surprised by Curtiss' departure, given that Curtiss' wife recently had a baby and Curtiss was spending lots of time away from home, traveling to Fox's other NoRTH restaurants to help implement the pasta program and work with staff.

"Guys like Chris like to and need to do lots of different stuff, to flex their creative muscles," Fox says. "I understand that. I never begrudge that. That's part of the business. Chris slowed us down, brought technique to our food, and we're glad to have had him. We all enjoyed working with him."

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Nikki Buchanan