Fans of the Ritz Carlton’s tony Bistro 24 are perhaps still sniffling over the loss of that landmark lunch and dinner spot. But The Camby, the new resident of the still-upscale hotel purchased last December by Marriott International, hopes the culinary talents of chef Dushyant Singh will help us forget.
Toward that end, The Camby is making everything old new again — including the titles given to its executives. Their general manager is known as the Chief Ideation Officer; the HR guy is Chief Cultural Officer. This shtick doesn’t stop in the corporate offices; it trickles down to the kitchen, restaurant, and bar staffs, too, where cooks are officially known as Culinary Fanatics. Servers are BFFs, which stands for Beverage and Food Fanatic.
“We’re trying to start a different culture in our business and in our menu,” says Singh, who in most other hotels would be a plain old executive chef. At The Camby, his official title is Director of Culinary Experiences.
It’s a heady label for someone who’s been chefing a scant 16 years, yet Singh has held some impressive titles during that time, most notably as executive sous chef at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, and more recently as executive chef of The Westin in Chicago. He returned to Phoenix and The Camby late last year to oversee operations for the company’s four onsite culinary ventures.
The jewel in the Camby Crown is The Artizen, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that combine French cuisine flavored with Southwestern chilies and spices from Singh’s own Northern Indian culture. He calls it “global cuisine” — the techniques are French, the flavors are from all over.
Like his signature smoked sweet potatoes, seared in duck fat and dressed with a horseradish barbecue sauce, which have proven to be a huge hit with both locals and visitors from Iowa. Likewise his house salad, which swaps a traditional crouton for chopped caramel corn that offsets spicy frisee leaves with a bit of sweetness and crunch.
Singh is adding more Northern Indian spices to his entrees, as with the Indian-inspired eggplant curry he’s planning to introduce on his next menu.
“I am reaching into Indian cuisine for spices that I think our diners might not have tried,” he says, “but I also want to be true to Arizona. A guest traveling to Arizona should feel like they’re in the Southwest.”
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Cooking with local produce is important to Singh, who like so many local chefs partners with farmers and goods purveyors for Valley-grown foodstuffs.
“There’s so much here,” he says. “It’s not just good lettuce and tomatoes. You can buy great goat cheese, pecans, dates, and olives. I don’t feature locally grown food because it’s a trend. I do it because supporting local growers is the right thing to do.”
Singh says his small-plate concept is designed to inspire diners to try more (and more unusual) dishes from his menu.
“It’s a challenge, pleasing everyone,” he admits. “I get locals to return by giving them cuisine with an edge. And I want to please the tourists who expect fish tacos with chipotle mayo. But, you know, it’s a challenge I’m up for, and one I love.”