Nicholas Hyche of Hilton Phoenix Chandler on Garlic Salt and Yan Can Cook

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Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the seventh annual Pie Social at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 19, at the Bioscience High School at 512 East Pierce Street. We've got an all-star lineup of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now till Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one.

Today, Nicholas Hyche of Hilton Phoenix Chandler

Nicholas Hyche is a self-described "military brat" who has called Greece, Germany, Texas, and Ohio home. He moved to Phoenix in 1993, and his first kitchen job was making pizzas and “Chinese” food at the Flying J truck stop in West Phoenix at 17 years old. Since then, he's worked his way up through the Phoenix dining scene, including stints at Michael’s at The Citadel, JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Stoudemire’s Downtown, and finally at the Hilton Phoenix Chandler. Hyche says he enjoys a good stout or porter, and lives with his 18-year-old dachshund mutt named Gunther and his fiancée, Stephanie.

What is the first dish you remember fixing yourself at home?
Meatloaf. Looking back, it needed work. 80/20 ground beef, crushed saltine crackers, ketchup, Worchester sauce, garlic salt. Yum.

What is the one thing you always had in your kitchen growing up?
Mom was a big fan of garlic salt. Used it on everything.

What are five essentials in your home kitchen today?
Beer, pork, butter, cast-iron skillet, and more beer.

What is a memorable dish from your childhood and the back story?

Grandma Neff (maternal grandmother) passed on a Thanksgiving recipe to my mom that I absolutely adore and have passed on to friends and family. You make a streusel with Quaker oatmeal, mix with canned yams and fresh cranberries. Plop that mixture into a casserole dish and top with the obligatory marshmallows. Bake. Boom. It has it all. Tart pops of cranberries with ribbons of toasted marshmallow and creamy yams. Probably the best Thanksgiving leftover dish to eat cold out of the fridge. My little brother, dad, and I would fight for the loosely wrapped foil-topped casserole dish the next day. Dad would get to it first most times. “Snooze, you lose,” he often said with a sheepish grin as he devoured our favorite holiday dish.

Who inspired you to become a chef and why?

I was helping my mom at the age of 5 with simple kitchen tasks, and at around 8 years old, I took over as the main cook for our family of five. I was probably the only third grader consulting with Mama about what to pull out of the freezer for supper. On Saturdays, I rarely watched cartoons, I’d watch chefs on PBS: Frugal Gourmet, Jacques Pepin, and my favorite, Martin Yan a.k.a. Yan Can Cook. I think this combination fueled my infatuation. I’ll go on record and say my Mama, while I love her, her cooking was nothing special. She was a budget-conscious wife who fed our family with what she could. Lots of ground beef, lots of generic brands, and lots of garlic salt. Every time she sees a “fancy” dish I’ve created, like a pan-seared foie gras with caramelized onion or pecan pie and Chianti syrup, she says, “I don’t know where you got your taste buds from, 'cuz it sure wasn’t from me.”

The 2016 Pie Social Celebrity Bakers so far:

Adam Allison of SuperFarm
Soraya Medina of Heavenly Bites

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