Keenan Bosworth of Pig & Pickle Dishes About Chrysa Robertson, Phoenix as a Food Town and Who He's Had Fun With in the Kitchen

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This is part two of my interview with chef-owners of the Pig & Pickle: Josh Riesner and Keenan Bosworth. Today, it's Bosworth's turn. If you missed Riesner's dish on bartending bullshit and the soul-lessness of Las Vegas, read it here.

See also: Pig & Pickle Pretty Perfect

Keenan Bosworth remembers walking down the street with some older friends who worked in restaurants when he was about 16, who schooled him on scoring with the ladies. "Make food for them," they advised. "Ooh, that sounds cool," he remembers thinking. He was a hockey player in Wisconsin (his home state), Indiana and Ohio first, but when he made it to the kitchen, he loved the pace of it. It was fast-moving with a lot of things going on at once, just like hockey.

But then being around good food was nothing new. Bosworth's parents cooked and gardened, and he remembers being pulled around Madison's farmer's market (one of the best in the country) at an early age.

His first culinary job was in pantry at the Edgewater Hotel, where he cut his teeth before signing on with Odessa Piper, chef-owner of L'Etoile in Madison. Piper, a huge proponent of sustainable agriculture and the local food movement taught Bosworth the importance of the local scene by example. She had a map of all the local farms hanging in the kitchen. "She changed everything for me," he says, "her food was simple and sustainable." He spent a year and a half with her before moving to Milwaukee for a girl.

Bosworth worked at a handful of places there, including the well-regarded (but now defunct) Barossa, before coming to Phoenix and finding work at Rancho Pinot, where he stayed for three and a half years before moving to Atlas Bistro, where he stayed another three and a half years. Now he's got a brand new bag with his buddy Riesner.

When I ask him if he's nervous about the new business he replies, "The stuff I'm nervous about is my bank account. That makes me want to throw up. But the stuff in the kitchen, that's where I'm comfortable."

Five words to describe you: Mouthy, passion, passion, passion, father.

Five words to describe Pig & Pickle: Mellow, local, simple, clean, fun.

Favorite food smell: Bacon and onions.

Favorite cookbook and why: Charcuterie by Brian Polcyn. I like things simple, accessible, and printed before 1980.

Name an ingredient you love to cook with and explain why: Passion- it should reflect in your food.

Most over-rated ingredient: White pepper and lobster.

Most under-rated ingredient: Salt and tasting spoons.

Trend you like: Simplicity.

Dish/trend or catch phrase you wish would go away and why: Fussy food with way too many ingredients. Stop trying to confuse people. Less is more.

Your favorite cuisine and why: Food. It's good.

Weirdest thing you ever ate: Eyes.

Describe a meal you like to cook at home: Meatballs and mashed potatoes.

Your most embarrassing moment in the kitchen: When I sliced off the tip of my thumb. I was 16 and not supposed to be on the electric slicer (may have lied about my age to get the job...).

What really turns you off when you're dining at a restaurant?: Lame music; too many servers assigned to a single table.

Name one of your favorite places to dine in Phoenix and briefly explain why: Davanti, because Chef Pete may or may not be wearing a Pig & Pickle chef jacket.

Name a national restaurant you greatly admire and explain why: Animal [Los Angeles] because they get it. No pretention, just t-shirts, aprons, and wicked food.

Favorite thing to eat growing up: Strawberries from mom's garden.

Favorite thing to eat now: Anything I don't have to cook, still a sucker for Wisconsin fish fry.

What's your guilty pleasure?: Fernet Branca.

What people don't really know/understand about you is: I'm a big teddy bear sometimes.

Name a culinary mentor and explain what you learned from that person: Odessa Piper taught me how to treat ingredients with love and passion and the importance of local.

Describe your experience at Rancho Pinot: When you go to work for Chrysa, that's a good introduction to this town. She's very demanding. She can be across the room and totally catch something going on in the kitchen. She suffers no fools, and she doesn't sweet-talk you. She breaks people. But her goal is to be massively consistent, and it's all about the customer experience.

Describe Phoenix as a food town: Everybody wants to bite and chew everyone else up. You can get away with pedestrian shit here if you're flamboyant and have your hair a certain way.

In which kitchen have you had the most fun and why?: Digestif. Payton Curry was fun and got me inspired again.

Pet peeve in the kitchen: Messy cooks.

Last meal on earth -- what would it be?: Pork belly, mashed potatoes and tacos.

What should be written on your head stone?: Passion.

Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Josh Riesner of Pig & Pickle Lester Gonzalez of Cowboy Ciao M.J. Coe of Federal Pizza Steven "Chops" Smith of Searsucker Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis Michael Rusconi of Rusconi's American Kitchen Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot Lynn Rossetto of The Splendid Table Cullen Campbell of Crudo DJ Monti Carlo Pete DeRuvo of Davanti Enoteca Chuck Wiley of Cafe ZuZu Justin Beckett of Beckett's Table Bryan Dooley of Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House James Porter of Petite Maison Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Chris Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge Chris Curtiss of NoRTH Arcadia Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles

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