Chow Bella

Christopher Gross' Chef's Tour: A Recap

After this weekend, it's time to replace "party like a rockstar" with "drink like a chef." Friday night is a bit of a blur for most (if not all) of the participants in a Chef's Tour of central downtown Phoenix restaurants (yes, and bars) dreamed up by chef Christopher Gross and made a reality by Terry Madeksza and Samantha Jackson from the Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Terry and Samantha invited me along to serve as a tour guide, so here's my bird's eye view.

The first thing I learned Friday night is that chefs have groupies. I know this, because they were waiting for us when we met up at Christopher Gross' watering hole, Crush Lounge at Biltmore Fashion Park, before embarking a trolley that took us around all night.

Yup, there must have been at least five cougars, complete with plunging necklines, sparkly earrings and fake tans. I knew Samantha was going to Twitter the whole night so it wouldn't be a secret wherever we were going, but I wasn't prepared for the groupies. All I can say is that I hope they had a designated driver.

First stop, Hanny's downtown! Shoestring onions, my favorite beef sandwich (the Roast Beef, the one with bacon and a fried egg), for noshing, to go along with shots, beers and martinis. A heated argument ensued over the vintage Berkel slicer. This gorgeous device is a rare piece of kitchen equipment, and it probably costs more than my car. Evidently James Porter (of the erstwhile Tapino) has slicer envy. This is where I learned the term 'Masshole' from Beau MacMillan (elements). Mention that to someone next time they say they are from Boston. Hopefully they won't punch you for essentially calling them a Massachusetts Asshole. After Todd Sicolo (Arizona Biltmore Resort) got lost trying to find his way out of the bathroom, we headed to the Ruby Room for shots. That's where I learned that chefs like The Smiths; and no one wanted to bum menthol cigarettes from Christopher Gross.

The cougars followed us to the Ruby Room but I don't think they got out of the car. Maybe dive bars are like kryptonite for them or something. Either way, they were waiting for us at Sens.

Chef/owner Johnny Chu made some shrimp balls for us. And shu mai. And more shots. Lots of them. This time we downed lychee-infused shochu and saketinis. Rick Dupere (Executive Chef, Ritz-Carlton) dubbed the shots Firewater, but that didn't stop him from having seconds.

This is when I learned that Matt Carter (Zinc Bistro, The Mission, Nine 05) has great taste in design and isn't afraid of pink lotus lamps; also that Beau's nickname while he was on tour in Korea with the Beef Council was 'Beauzilla,' which is what we all called him from then on. After we drained Sens, we went next door to Turf Accountant for beer, scotch, and more beer.

Then we stumbled a few steps over to PastaBAR, where Wade Moises set an absolutely gorgeous table for us, and we pretended to be grownups while we drank prosecco and ate a gorgeous meal, family style (nothing was on the menu -- fancy chef-cooking-for-chefs stuff).

Marcellino loved the specialty one-of-a-kind pasta, and I caught him eavesdropping when I asked Wade what was in the sauce. A giant argument ensued while everyone debated whether Aaron May (Sol y Sombra, Overeasy) looks more like the Geico caveman with his new fuller beard or like the David Koresh art on the wall. I would love to continue to eat breakfast at Overeasy so I abstained from the vote.

We kidnapped PastaBAR's Moises, since by now we were pushing 1 a.m. and the trolley had actually died. A mechanic was en route. Moises led the way for the two block walk to The Roosevelt. Ah, beer. And big, delicious housemade soft pretzels. And salty nuts, and deviled eggs, and chips and dip and beer. Did I mention we drank some beer? The Roosevelt's Matt and Ernie saved the back table for us; our entourage still included the cougars, but they disappeared after the Roosevelt. We also, at that point, lost a couple of our chefs who disappeared with a new set of groupies and a Town Car. Interesting.

The trolley whisked us to the Lost Leaf for last call and the last round of beer (duh) and I headed to Conspire with Anthony Rendendo (Redendo's Pizzeria and Phoenix College, where he's a culinary professor) and his wife Carolyn for coffee. I hope their kids let them sleep in Sunday morning, because by now it was around 2:30.

DPP's Terry and I debated the finer points of urban density and zoning with Christopher Gross as we walked (and I use that term loosely) back to the trolley.

At this point, getting the remaining chefs back on the trolley was like herding cats. By the time I crawled into bed it was almost 4 a.m. I was desparately trying to remember all of the secrets I am now sworn to keep: New restaurants going in what part of town, who is going to open a gastro pub, who can't hold their liquor, who has a mean right hook, and who's first on the trolly in the event of a bar fight. At least I think that's what happened. Who can tell?

That's what happens on a Friday night, when you drink like a chef.

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Sloane Burwell
Contact: Sloane Burwell