^
Keep New Times Free
4

Paul McCabe of T. Cook's at the Royal Palms on the Renovation and His New American Menu

Paul McCabe Executive Chef T. Cook's at the Royal Palms www.tcooksdining.com

This week, we're talking with new T. Cook's executive chef Paul McCabe, who comes to the Valley after a decade in Southern California kitchens, most recently at La Jolla's La Valencia Hotel. It's been about a month since the restaurant and new bar officially re-launched, but the work's not over for McCabe. "There are a lot of eyes on this project," he says, admitting that he's still nervous about how the hotel's longtime guests and fans will take to the changes. Today, we hear about the vision behind the restaurant's reboot. Come back Tuesday, when we hear about his experience working with Michel Blanchet.

See also: T. Cook's and The Mix Up Bar Grand Re-Opening Event Last Night at The Royal Palms Resort and Spa

Being a chef at a resort restaurant isn't easy. And it definitely isn't for everyone. Usually, there's a lot of structure, which some chefs say stifles creativity, and unlike at high-concept restaurants that can afford to operate at a loss, money really matters.

But for T. Cook's executive chef Paul McCabe, it's a perfect fit.

"I just fell into it," he says of the hotel industry. "And I love it."

For nearly his entire career, McCabe has worked in the resort environment, often as part of a team that helps struggling hotels and their restaurants reinvigorate -- and often entirely reboot -- themselves. For the past 12 years, he's worked in some of Southern California's best kitchens, including and most notably at L'Auberge Del Mar's Kitchen 1540 and, prior to that, L'Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills where he was part of $65 million renovation project. He's also cooked at the James Beard House four times and was recognized as a "rising star of American Cuisine" by the James Beard Foundation

In short, he pretty good at this stuff. Not that it made him any less nervous about coming in to change what's undoubtedly one of the Valley's most iconic restaurants.

For years, T. Cook's has been a go-to spot for romantic nights out or a luxurious Sunday brunch. In other words, it hasn't been the kind of place you go to for just any old reason. And that's exactly what McCabe says they're trying to change.

"We need to break that mold," McCabe says.

That meant getting rid of the white tablecloths and introducing a new vibrant color scheme in the chairs, tables, and artwork. The food has moved away from the strictly Mediterranean vibe to become "New American with a Mediterranean twist." The new vision will give McCabe more liberty with flavors but will ensure things stay true to the resort's overall theme.

But how exactly does a chef begin planning a "New American" and Mediterranean menu?

McCabe uses a technique we can best compare to diagramming sentences. He begins with a single ingredient written on a piece of paper and then starts adding off-shoots with other potential ingredients and flavors. He says it's a sort of culinary brainstorming session with other chefs, the only rules being that any new flavors added to the diagram have to jive with those already listed. And they have to fit in with, in this case, the Mediterranean theme. Saffron? Okay. Yuzu? Not so much.

One thing most people don't know about you: I play the drums and love to mountain bike!

The last thing you watched/read: Watched -- Mind of a Chef. Read -- I don't have time to read! Hahaha.

Favorite childhood food memory: Cooking and baking with my mom.

Your biggest influence or inspiration: Daniel Boulud.

Who's your mentor and how do they influence your cooking today?: Michel Blanchet was a master of sauces and during my time with him, that is what I gravitated toward. Chef Blanchet is the one who made me the saucier I am today.

One thing you can't cook without: Good extra virgin olive oil.

What tattoos do you have and why did you get them?: I have done some traveling and try to get ink in every country.

Your favorite food-related book and why: Modernist Cuisine is a great resource book.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

The food trend you're totally over: Cupcakes, Brussels sprouts, and flowers.

The biggest challenge you've faced in your career and how you overcame it: I've been a part of several restaurant openings and they are all challenging! I think the key is to remain fluid and keep your eye on the common goal.

Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with: Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch Kevin Lentz - French Grocery Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada Brian Peterson - Cork Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio German Sega - Roka Akor Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.