Chef News

James Fox of Bootleggers on the Barbecue Trend in Phoenix

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In Fox's case, "they way I like to eat barbecue," means barbecue with a Mexican twist. That's why you won't find any of the white bread that's signature with Texas 'cue at Bootleggers. Instead you get a pile of hot tortillas to build barbecue tacos as you see fit. You can also taste the south-of-the-border flair in the rub on Bootlegger's brisket, which blends chipotle, black pepper, and chile powder, among other spices.

It should come as little surprise that Fox's brand of 'cue blends classic American and Mexican flavors. After all, his résumé does include time at Milagro Grill and in Mexico, where he worked as a personal chef for a time. Prior barbecue experience comes from his stint at Big Earl's BBQ in Scottsdale.

But even within the realm of barbecue, Fox doesn't want to feel limited. In the next few months, the restaurant will head toward a more "smokehouse focused" menu.

"Barbecue isn't the only thing you can put in a smoker," Fox says, adding that he's been playing around with the idea of adding a wild game section to the menu with items like smoked guinea hen and alligator.

The chef says they'll also be taking the smoky theme to the bar soon, with charred and smoke-flavored cocktails.

Even with the recent growth of good barbecue in the Valley, Fox says, it's difficult for restaurants in this town. He blames the trend of eat-and-go diners who don't want to sit and enjoy a leisurely dining experience but are focused on offering "instant criticism."

"But we do have a couple of pretty good solid barbecue spots," the chef says. "I think we're slowly but surely getting our feet under ourselves on all these trends."

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria