Dustin & Pat Christofolo of The House at Secret Garden

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Chef Dustin Christofolo is a natural-born restaurateur, even if he didn't fully embrace it until his early 20s.

"With my mom having the sandwich shops and my grandpa having the bakery, I've always been surrounded by food and restaurants," Christofolo says. "But I never really developed an appreciation for it until I was about 21 or 22."

His mom, Pat Christofolo, iis the owner of Santa Barbara Catering and The Farm Kitchen at The Farm at South Mountain, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit behind the Farm's Morning Glory Café and Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain (the latter two she's since entrusted to Chef Greg LaPrad).

Now the mother-and-son pair are taking their relationship with food and each other to a whole new level: They're business partners running The House at Secret Garden, another South Phoenix restaurant aiming to inject some life into the area.

"We're really looking forward to being that niche in this location where this is the restaurant that people are waiting for," Dustin says. "Where people feel like they can just walk down the street and have this little gem here."

Today, the Christofolos open up about their starts in the culinary world, rave about Italy and Quiessence, and rant about the perils of too little propane, overpriced gypsy cabs, and too many four-course meals.

Note: Pat's responses are italicized.

Check back tomorrow when we pry into the pair's childhoods in our second installment of this week's Chef Chat and Thursday for the recipe to a Christofolo creation.

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