Russell LaCasce is taking over as Hotel Valley Ho's new executive chef starting on January 2, 2017. He was previously the executive sous chef at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley.
LaCasce has big shoes to fill. He's succeeding Charles Wiley, who has been with the Valley Ho since 2005 and is leaving to become the executive chef for Mountain Shadows resort.
What's it like taking over for a storied chef?
"It’s a little daunting," LaCasce tells New Times. "Coming into a place like that with a reputation and such a history of putting out good food."
But LaCasce, who has worked with Sanctuary Chef Beau MacMillan and Wiley for the past seven years (Wiley is the director of food and beverage for Westroc Hospitality, which developed and manages Valley Ho, Mountain Shadows, and Sanctuary), says he's up for the task.
"I’ve really tried to prove myself as a leader and a great cook and a great chef. I think I’ve done that, and proven to those guys that I was ready for it," he says.
After getting to know the staff and clientele, LaCasce plans to roll out new menus within the first one to two months. Although he didn't want to discuss any specific menu items he has in mind, he described his food as creative, colorful, sleek, sexy, and approachable.
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"My plan is to keep that kind of popular American retro feel that the Valley Ho is known for, and elevate it, and do the things that I know, that I’ve been successful with," he says.
LaCasce started his career in Charleston, South Carolina, as a dishwasher, left to work in Park City, Utah, restaurants, and moved to Scottsdale in 2006. He holds a culinary arts degree from the Arizona Culinary Institute and has spent the past decade working under Arizona's top chefs. LaCasce also worked with Chef Lee Hillson at T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix. He joined Sanctuary in 2010 as a.m. sous chef and was named executive sous chef in 2011.
As the executive chef of Hotel Valley Ho, LaCasce will oversee the culinary aspects of the hotel’s signature restaurant, ZuZu, in-room dining, the OH Pool and OHasis Pool, banquets, and catering.
For more information, visit Hotel Valley Ho's website.