Cullen Campbell of Crudo on Crispy Pig Ears and Being a Restaurant for Foodies

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This is the second part of our interview with Chef Cullen Campbell of Crudo in Phoenix. Today we're picking up where we left off yesterday, when he told us all the work that went into his experience cooking dinner and the James Beard House in New York City. Despite hours of prepping -- in two different states and three kitchens -- Campbell says the experience was so enjoyable he'd like to do it again. But what do you put on the menu when you're cooking a dinner you've dreamed about for 16 years?

See also: Crudo in Phoenix Rolling Out Brunch This Sunday

"We wanted to showcase everything we do here," Campbell says, which is to say that the menu included some of his signature raw fish entrees, Arizona produce and offal, including his well-loved crispy pig ears.

And speaking of those pig ears, Campbells says they've become one of the most popular items on the menu - which is funny considering he never meant to sell them to regular customers.

"I bought a 10 pound bag of pig ear and thought, 'This is going to last me a month,'" he says. "I really bought it for my chef friends who come in at the bar. Now we sell an order almost every table."

All the cooking left little time for eating, but be assured Campbell didn't leave New York without hitting one of the country's most famous spots: Momofuku Milk Bar. If you make it there he recommends you try the Candy Bar Pie.

Cullen has a few things in the works back here at home. Crudo recently started offering Sunday brunch, which he says has been going "a lot better than he thought" it would, considering how little they've been doing to promote it.

The menu, a tight and enticing one, offers dishes such as ricotta waffles, bacon and egg risotto and the popular pork belly poutine with fingerling potatoes, gravy and fonduta.

"It's pretty damn good," Campbell says.

And he's hoping to launch a new weekly (or maybe bi-weekly) event in the New Year. Inspired by the success of the restaurant's recent Beaujolais Nouveau launch party, at which time he tested the concept, Campbell says he's looking to start weekly polenta board nights.

Done family style, the dinners will feature wooden boards of Hayden Flour Mills polenta with roasted meats, pickled vegetables and side jars of house-made sauces. Everything we come with free refills and each week will feature different meats or a different style/theme.

"It was a lot of fun," Campbell says of the first run. "People were out here having a blast."

The biggest lesson you've learned since opening your own restaurant: I have learned to create a balance with my menu, my costs, my personal life, and my staff.

The biggest misconception about Italian cuisine: People don't realize there's so much more to Italian cuisine than just pasta.

How would you describe the style of Italian food you serve at Crudo? Modern Italian with clean fresh flavors.

Three things you want people to know about Crudo: We want you to feel like you are at home here; we have a flexible style of dining whether a la carte or coursing; we have an amazing mixology program to complement our cuisine.

What was it like cooking at the James Beard House earlier this year? Quite simply, it was the experience of a lifetime. I can't wait to go back. My wife said I was as cool as a cucumber but I was so stressed on the inside.

OpenTable named Crudo one of the 100 best restaurants in the country for "foodies." Do you see that as a positive thing? Definitely a positive. We're very proud to be among some fantastic restaurants on that list. We only hope the term doesn't deter any guests because they think our menu will be filled with intimidating or unrecognizable ingredients.

Describe your ideal brunch: Cheeseburger, Fries, Side of pancakes. I like both sweet and savory.

What's your best advice for people when cooking for a large party: Just have fun with it. Food always tastes better when it's made with love.

What are you excited about eating in the New Year: I am very excited to check out Trois Mec in LA. Ludo Lefevre and the Chefs from Animal have teamed up and are putting up some very inspiring and unique dishes.

Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis 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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