Stephen Jones Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails Hotel Palomar, CityScape 2 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix 602-253-6633 www.bluehoundkitchen.com
This is part one of my interview with Stephen Jones, executive chef of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. Come back tomorrow to see what he says about cooking at Nobu in Vegas and why Bob Marley's in the kitchen in part two!
Stephen Jones dreamed of being a football star until an injury took him out of the game. But these days, instead of throwing the pigskin, he's more likely to cook it as the executive chef at the recently opened Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. Influenced by his grandmother and a chef uncle at an early age, Jones grew up in the kitchen but never considered cooking as a career. That changed the day he simply decided that attending culinary school made sense for a guy with his predilections.
He signed up for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, California and while helping in the kitchen at a charity event, worked alongside Michael Cimarusti of Water Grill.
Cimarusti was so impressed with the student's humble, head-down approach that he offered him a job. Jones worked at Water Grill through culinary school, moving to Las Vegas to find a position at Nobu after graduation. He later jumped to Bradley Ogden, where his good friend worked, before following that same friend to Chicago and MK.
It was there he met the woman who would become his fiancée, an Arizona native who was ready to get back home. "She was very strategic," Jones laughs, pointing out that she took him to Sea Saw and Pizzeria Bianco to convince him that Phoenix was a viable food town. Jones moved to Arizona in 2008, where his first gig was as consulting chef for BLT Steak.
Soon after, he took the chef de cuisine position at Tarbell's, where he stayed for nearly a year and a half before moving to the Latilla at The Boulders, which he calls a "different beast." Apparently, it's a beast he can handle because Jones happily accepted the executive chef position at Blue Hound when the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group came knocking.
Explain your thought process in creating the menu for Blue Hound: What we wanted to do is create an atmosphere that's fun, approachable, intriguing and unlike anything else in Phoenix. The menu is designed around things we all grew up with but done in fun ways with local ingredients.
There's a little something Southern going on here: It reads Southern because my heritage is from the South and I take a lot of cooking from my granny. It reads heavy, but it tastes light. That's by design. We like to keep it clean.
It blew my mind to see a fried bologna sandwich on there: That's my homage to my childhood. People ask, "Are you really using Wonder Bread?" Yes, and it's the only processed thing I use, but a fried bologna sandwich wouldn't be the same without that.
What's your pet peeve in the kitchen: Whistling. When I was growing up, I wasn't allowed to whistle. My granny said it wakes the dead, and to this day, I can't stand it. I don't like dull knives either.
What's your guiding principle about cooking: Taste, taste, taste and never copy.
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Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: 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