It has been an incredible four months for me as Phoenix New Times' food editor. This city is a treasure trove of inventive, chef-driven restaurants — both high-end and hole-in-the-wall. And working for a progressive publication like New Times has allowed me to explore the Valley food scene beyond high-profile restaurant openings and really dig in to some of the stories of the longtime ethnic restaurants that make the city such a vibrant place to live, work, and eat.
It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to the Valley of the Sun, but I couldn't be more excited to introduce the food-obsessed Philly native to whom I will be passing the baton.
Chris Malloy is a third-generation Italian-American from Berwyn, a town just outside Philadelphia, and his love of food, and the amazing stories that are served with them, has been an essential part of his life since childhood. Some of his earliest memories are of his grandmother cooking and telling stories about orange salad, artichokes, and gnocchi. Her stories and culinary wizardry captivated his young imagination.
Malloy worked in an Italian restaurant during high school. In his second year at Penn State, where he studied English, he made a summer-long trip to Italy. He spent a semester taking classes and chasing the girl who would become his wife, venturing up and down the peninsula from his base, an Iron Age citadel town in Umbria called Todi. Afterward, he returned to Happy Valley to take on the role of nonfiction editor of Kalliope, a Penn State literary magazine.
"I am a literature nerd with a deep interest in fiction, nonfiction, poetry throughout the eras and across borders, with a special interest in progressive/experimental stuff," he says.
After graduation, Malloy spent a sunburnt summer working on farms and vineyards in Italy. He participated in agritourism outside Bologna, on a mountain vineyard near the medieval town Brisighella, on a biodynamic farm an hour through the ancient wheat fields surrounding Rome, and on a family farm in the lofty hinterlands of Le Marche.
"I am obsessed with rolling pasta and have cut some pretty wild shapes," he says. "Highlights from this summer have been squid ink fettuccine, tomato garganelli, and spinach cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver."
With an English degree under his belt, Malloy returned to the States to take his interest in food to the next level with a master's degree in food studies from Boston University. There, he enhanced his knowledge of gastronomy, food history, culinary anthropology, and similar subjects, tackling very hard classes like "Artisanal Cheeses of the World," from which he would emerge cheese-high and half-drunk.
"To me, taste is just one dimension of food and not even the most interesting. I'm also into nutrition, history, politics, and other angles," Malloy says. "I write about food for a lot of reasons, but mostly because food is the cultural topic of today that carries the most weight."
His first real story was a profile of the formidable chef and author Maricel Presilla, which he wrote for the Boston Globe. "It remains one of the trickiest interviews I ever conducted," he laughs, describing the culinary powerhouse infamous for taking charge of interviews and leaving journalists shell-shocked in her wake.
In his time writing, he has done editorial internships with Boston magazine and Bon Appétit. He has written and photographed for the likes of The Boston Globe, Men’s Health, TimeOut New York, Modern Farmer, New Jersey Monthly, Edible Jersey, Saveur, Serious Eats, and others.
Then, he got married. Things changed. After a three-year detour into law, he returned to writing full-time in 2017.
Chris moved to the Valley in July and proceeded to dive right into the Phoenix culinary scene, profiling an eccentric pasta maker, chatting with Aaron Chamberlin about his vision for St. Francis, and digging into Hatch chile season.
"I'm so excited to be exploring this great city," Chris says. "I don't believe in 'computer screen journalism'. I want to get out there and do immersive reporting."
What has impressed him most about his new hometown, so far? "Mexican food and happy hour prices," he says, grinning. "It is amazing what is available here, and sometimes I get the bill and wonder if they've made a mistake."
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Though he was already contributing to New Times as a writer, he has plans to take the section to another level as the food editor.
"My hope is to tell more stories, really go deep on the narratives, and introduce some experimental new writing styles to the section."
I, for one, can't wait to follow his delicious journey.
Catch up with our new food editor on Instagram at @malloy_chris or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.