Chef News

Justin Beckett Dishes on Roy Yamaguchi and Describes His Fantasy Restaurant

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Justin Beckett grew up in a family he calls "traveling hippies." His mother once lived in Haight-Ashbury, while his father ditched a demanding electrician's career to wind surf in Hawaii. As the eldest of five children, Beckett, who often helped out with the cooking, remembers burning brown rice and doing terrible things to tofu. But he's not the least bit scarred by his experiences. If anything, his constant connection to the kitchen (he was a restaurant dishwasher in 7th grade) set him on the path that led to Beckett's Table.

Not a wanderer by nature, Beckett knew what he wanted early on. Four days after high school, he was enrolled in culinary school, working in restaurants as he completed the program. After his externship at Roy's in Hawaii, he took a job as prep cook at the Roy's in Monterey, CA. Fourteen months later, he came to Phoenix as the sous chef of the Roy's in the Esplanade, later opening other Roy's restaurants in metro Phoenix and California. When the Esplanade location closed, he left the company and bounced around a bit, eventually helping Chuck Wiley open Café ZuZu at the Hotel Valley Ho and Trader Vic's, where he stayed until Fred Unger invited him to open FoodBar, Canal and Metro Brasserie.

By the time Canal closed in the summer of 2009, Beckett was already entertaining the notion of owning his own place. He and his wife Michelle partnered up with longtime friends and restaurant people Scott and Katie Stephens (both level one wine soms) to open Beckett's Table in the fall of 2010. The place was an instant success, and two years in, it's become the sort of comfortable neighborhood fixture no one can remember ever living without.

Favorite food smell: I'm not sure I can narrow it to just one -- meatloaf coming out of the oven, bacon sizzling, garlic and shallots sautéeing in olive oil, roasting veal bones . . .

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Nikki Buchanan