Chef News

Vincent Guerithault on Wolfgang Puck and Kevin Binkley

This is part two of my interview with Vincent Guerithault, chef-owner of Vincent on Camelback and Vincent's Market Bistro. If you missed part one, where Guerithault talks about being an apprentice, famous people he's cooked for and where he buys his macarons, read it here.

Disclosure: I dated Vincent in 1985-86, before and during the time he was opening Vincent on Camelback.

See also: -- Jared Porter of The Parlor on Vincent Guerithault and Working in Michael DeMaria's Kitchen -- Michael Rusconi Dishes On Vincent Guerithault, What He Learned at Lon's and His Pet Peeve When He's the Guy Getting Waited On

Most overrated ingredient: Olive oil. A good olive oil should be used to enhance the flavors in a recipe, but a lot of times, expensive olive oil is used in cooking when a cheaper alternative oil works better.

Most underrated ingredient: Duck fat. According to D'Artagnan, it's lower in saturated fat than butter, can be reused, and can be kept in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Something always found in your kitchen: Butter.

Something never found in your kitchen: Margarine.

Something always found in your fridge: Cheese and red wine.

Favorite cooking tool/toy and why: Cast iron pans. Food cooks beautifully in them.

Trend or buzzword you wish would go away: Huge portions just to attract customers.

Trend you like: Verrines [a layered compilation of ingredients in a glass]. It's a nice way to present food and they can used for both savory and sweet foods.

Has Vincent's menu/style changed over time?: Yes, our menu has evolved over the years, but there are still some signature dishes that remain -- like our Duck Tamales or Smoked Salmon Quesadillas, which we consider signature dishes. But we've also evolved in our style and presentation to keep people from getting bored and to offer variety and new flavors.

Favorite thing to eat growing up: Ham with mashed potatoes.

Favorite thing to eat now: Anything with foie gras.

Your guilty pleasure: Dove Bars.

Name a culinary mentor and explain what you learned from this person: Jean Banchet. I started working for Jean and his wife Doris when I first came to the United States in 1976. Jean taught me how to love working even harder that I already was!

The great thing about being a chef is: The customers and the amazing people I've had an opportunity to meet over the years.

The tough thing about being a chef is: The hours.

You always hear stories about chefs getting yelled at. Did that happen to you as a young chef?: I started my apprenticeship in L'Oustau de Baumaniere in Les Baux de Provence under the tutelage of founder Raymond Thulier. He was a stickler for perfection and would throw pots and pans at you if something didn't go right, something you would never get away with the U.S. I learned quickly to do it right!

Three don't-miss places to eat in Paris: My parents live in Nice in the south of France, so it's been a while since I've been to Paris. I would say Le Souffle Restaurant, and we always go to Berthillon for the Frais de Bois sorbet. But in Nice our favorite is La Merenda.

How has France's food scene changed? Are French chefs doing exciting things -- just as American chefs are here?: Yes, the food scene is constantly evolving in France. Many of the three-star restaurants in France have opened bistros or more casual restaurants as trends change.

Name a giant in the American food scene and explain why you admire this person: It would have to be Wolfgang Puck. Wolfgang and I started working together in Les Baux over 40 years and what he has been able to do in this country is remarkable.

Name three influential French chefs (not necessarily your mentors) and explain their contribution to the culinary arts: Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, and Joel Robuchon. They have all been trendsetters in their own right and remain important influences in French cuisine.

Name a local chef you admire and explain why: Kevin Binkley because he is super-talented and very creative and, like us [Vincent and his wife Leevon], he and his wife work together to make his restaurants the success they are.

Was there a moment when you knew you'd be a chef or was it a gradual process?: I always enjoyed helping my mother in the kitchen, and it was a natural evolution for me to follow that path.

If you weren't a chef, what would you be?: A Formula 1 race car driver.

Describe Phoenix as a restaurant town when you came here and Phoenix as a restaurant town now: There were not the variety of choices we have now. Phoenix was not necessarily recognized as a culinary destination and I think that view has changed.

Pet peeve in the kitchen: Not keeping a clean workstation.

Last meal on Earth -- what would it be: Anything with foie gras.

What should be written on your headstone: Life is too short to skip the foie gras!

Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with:

Helen Yung of Sweet Republic

Jacques Qualin of J&G Steakhouse

Claudio Urciuoli of Noca

Claudio Urciuoli of Noca

Matt Pool of Matt's Big Breakfast

Jared Porter of The Parlor

Charleen Badman of FnB

Tony Abou-Ganim & Adam Seger

Charlotte Voisey of Best American Brands Ambassador

Steve Olson of Valley Ho

Dough Robson of Gallo Blanco

Edward Farrow of The Cafe at MIM

Greg LaPrad of Quiessence & Morning Glory Cafe

Joshua Johnson of Kai

Joshua Johnson of Kai

Todd Sicolo of T.Cooks

Josh Riesner of Pig & Pickle

Lester Gonzalez of Cowboy Ciao

M.J. Coe of Federal Pizza

Steven "Chops" Smith of Searsucker

Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis

Michael Rusconi of Rusconi's American Kitchen

Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot

Lynn Rossetto of The Splendid Table

Cullen Campbell of Crudo

DJ Monti Carlo

Pete DeRuvo of Davanti Enoteca

Chuck Wiley of Cafe ZuZu

Justin Beckett of Beckett's Table

Bryan Dooley of Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue

Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe

Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar

Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House

James Porter of Petite Maison

Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar

Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

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

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Nikki Buchanan