A CULINARY JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD LEADS BACK HOME
Arizona Culinary Institute Proudly Welcomes Chef Steven Butler as its new Saucier & Basics Instructor
To say that Arizona Culinary Institute’s newest chef Instructor, Chef Steven Butler, is an experienced culinary wizard would be an understatement. His youthful looks belie a seasoned gastronomic veteran who counts making stocks and seasonings as his major points of pride, and he estimates that he’s probably cooked over 40,000 steaks in his career, including cleaning and cooking 15,000 tenderloins for the legendary Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar here in Scottsdale, AZ.
“I can tell the temperature of a steak five feet across the kitchen,” smiles a proficient Butler.
Butler’s love of food and food history began at an early age as the son of a government service professional. Born in Phoenix, AZ, Butler developed an incredibly sophisticated palette with stints in Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Philippines, Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound all before the age of 16.
“I have vivid memories of digging for geoduck clams on Puget Sound, roasting pigs on the beach in the Philippines, fishing in the Virgin Islands – digging for oysters, crabbing, you name it and we did it, and it was really the start of this amazing culinary journey that I’m still on to this day,” relates Butler.
By the age of 24, Butler entered culinary school, but he had already been cooking for many years, starting out as a dishwasher, and working his way up the ladder at various restaurants and taverns across the country.
One of his first jobs in Phoenix was at the now defunct Gentle Strength Co-op.
“We were doing Kale and Quinoa long before it was cool,” laughs Butler.
Butler went on to work for Chef Christopher Gross at Christopher’s Fermier Brasserie & Paola’s Wine Bar in Biltmore Fashion Park, and he sites this experience as something wonderful that influences him to this day.
“I loved that there was never any canned products. Fresh produce arrived at our backdoor every day, and we created wonderful dishes that people adored,” reflects Butler.
Butler next worked as a Sous Chef for Ruth’s Chris Steak House, and then went on to Fleming’s where he helped the restaurant to develop their now legendary Sourdough Bread. Butler became instrumental in the company’s research and development program, and was also a regional chef partner for the establishment’s southwest culinary program.
Deep down, however, Butler realized that he always wanted to teach, and when Chef Robert Wilson, Arizona Culinary Institute’s President and Cofounder called, Butler jumped at the chance.
“Culinary school changed my life,” notes Butler. “Even for someone who had been cooking for many years – this experience taught me so much, and continues to open so many doors.”
When not studying the history of food or teaching the next generation of chefs here at ACI, you’ll probably find Butler in his home kitchen, making authentic Mexican food for his family and friends, or outside on the grill, where southern-style smoked barbeque is his specialty.