Take Out the Trash

How do you start an e-mail war? Within the restaurant community, it's pretty simple: give Scottsdale bartender and gossipmonger Robert Stempkowski access to the Internet.

The tidbit he sent me was basic, about a chef departing a restaurant. Yet it quickly evolved into an electronic barrage of insults directed at the restaurant's owners and me. By week's end, Stempkowski was daring me to write something about the situation and copying his messages to other local media outlets in his outrage.

So here you go, Robert: Chef Michael Hoobler and wife/manager Pat Hoobler have left Valencia Lane, the contemporary American restaurant that opened in January of last year at 56th Street and Thomas, he for the Arizona Biltmore, she for Elements at Sanctuary Resort. Valencia owners Tom and Chrysa Kaufman have promoted sous chef Anthony Klepacki to chef. Changes are being considered; perhaps a BYOB policy. Sorry, that's as exciting as it gets.

Stempkowski, though, couldn't resist adding more, sticking in comments suggesting the Kaufmans don't know how to run a restaurant. A selection of his pithy prose reads: "Given their backers' history for tenuous business relationships . . . the Hooblers finding something to fall back on just might signal a falling out with the Kaufmans. Stay tuned. I smell another rat in the Arcadia neighborhood."

Why his interest? Stempkowski is a bartender for hot Valley restaurants (previously Richardson's and his current gig at Zinc Bistro) plus an on-again, off-again freelance food writer (he used to write restaurant reviews for Scottsdale Life magazine). He's a well-known player in the restaurant rumor tournament, and this isn't the first time he's so publicly badmouthed the competition. A week prior to trashing Valencia, in fact, he sent me ominous warnings about his most recent employer, Cowboy Ciao.

When asked to verify the accusations, the Kaufmans weren't amused. Snippets from their response to me: "It was an amicable separation . . . we wish them the best of luck, that's it."

Stempkowski, unable to leave bad enough alone, fired back at the Kaufmans with, "You can rant and insult me till your aorta explodes . . . [my speculations] had merit."

Our spy had another comment for the Kaufmans: "Methinks I hit a nerve." Methinks he's got some nerve, talking such trash. Chefs move all the time, seeking more lucrative pastures -- just as Stempkowski himself, formerly of Cowboy Ciao, is now slinging drinks at Zinc.

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Carey Sweet
Contact: Carey Sweet