Was it humor, self-deprecation or both that prompted Doug Robson to name his hip, mid-town Mexican restaurant in the Clarendon "gallo blanco," the Mexican slang term for "white guy"? There's more than a little irony in the moniker, that's for certain, given that this modest, bespectacled Anglo turns out some of the most authentic regional Mexican cuisine in the city. Then again, why wouldn't he? Never mind that his mother was French-Vietnamese and his father Scottish-English. Robson was born in Mexico and grew up just outside of Mexico City, where his dad ran the family's paper manufacturing business. As a kid who hit the local taquerias after school and helped his adopted grandmother make everything from tortillas to mole, Robson was steeped in Mexican food traditions from the get-go, admitting he felt a bit of culture shock when the family moved to San Antonio, the epicenter of Tex-Mex, when he was 11.
He got his first food job as a dishwasher and later, prep cook at San Antonio's Macaroni Grill (before it became a national chain), and when he had that existential, which-path-to-take moment in college, he abandoned the psych degree and headed for culinary school. A chef he was working with at the time (at award-winning Polo's at the Fairmount Hotel), recommended the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and Robson listened. He and his new wife (a tenth generation Texan who is said to make a mean brisket) packed their bags and moved to Scottsdale before Robson had even bothered to apply. He finagled his way past a waiting list and upon graduation, took a gig at Windows on the Green with Robert McGrath, whom he followed to the original Roaring Fork on Camelback.