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Fun Facts About Our Favorite Chefs

Posted on: January 1st, 2017 by Taryn Jeffries 3 Comments

My intention for PhoenixBites has consistently been to provide the community with the most up to date and interesting information about culinary events, restaurant happenings, and local chefs. It takes an exceptional breed of human to entirely dedicate your life to a profession of a chef, one that calls for long hours, difficult labor and the ability to be quick on your feet, all with the sole aim of making people happy through food. While traversing through all the eateries and interacting with Chefs, taking the time to get to know them and learn about their lives outside of the kitchen, you come across a few interesting fun facts. I wanted to share some of these gems relating to some of our favorite folks in our burgeoning culinary community.
A competitive BMX biker, a hardcore Chicago Cubs fan, a salsa dancer and an archer walk out of the kitchen…

Fun Facts About Our Favorite Valley Chefs

Chef Justin Beckett | Southern Rail and Beckett’s Table

Sit down with Chef Justin Beckett and ask him about his life and prepare to be in awe. As a child he lived just about everywhere; from a cabin with no electricity in Spokane, all over the Bay Area and Northern California, Hawaii, Canada, and even Guatamala. His parents were hippies and their dreams and desires sent them all over. This lifestyle resulted in him growing up eating all natural vegetarian foods and partaking in only holistic and homeopathic medicines. He was even kidnapped (!!) for a few days in Guatamala. He now takes great joy and pride in fixing up his 1950’s ranch style home here in the Valley (complete with electricity). He is looking forward to the day when he can work on restoring an old car with his kid(s) someday. He’s even got the vehicle picked out, maybe an old Bronco or VW bus. I’m betting on the bus, though, since he is currently on his 5th!

Fun Facts about our Favorite Valley Chefs: Chef Justin Beckett

Photo Credit @Iamchanelle Photography

Chef Christopher Gross | Christopher’s & Crush Lounge

Chef Christopher is a celebrity in the Valley and his name is synonymous with elegant dining and class. While we all know that he has a long history of creating some of the most innovative dishes we have seen there is a quite a bit beneath the surface you may not know. His time in the kitchen was born from a love of wheels, two wheels to be specific. When he first moved to Phoenix, he was 12 or 13, his neighbor worked at a bike shop he became enamored and worked in a kitchen to save money for a bike shop. That passion has since resulted in a total of 18 bikes, the most recent of which is a 749R Ducati. He is now working with a friend to build a track close to his home to ensure that he gets more time with his first love. He is also an accomplished artist, spending free time painting. As a child, he collected coins, some of which actually funded a move from Phoenix to LA and most recently have been melted down and made into a bracelet and earrings for his girlfriend. The coins used for these pieces date back to the 1820s!

Fun Facts About our Favorite Chefs: Chef Christopher Gross

Chef Rochelle Daniel | Fat Ox

Every time I see Chef Rochelle Daniel, I think of the Shakespeare quote, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” Though small in stature, she commands attention and respect in the kitchen. I first met Rochelle when she took over the kitchen at L’auberge de Sedona and was delighted to hear about her move to the Valley to head up the culinary program at Fat Ox. While living in Flagstaff you could always find her somewhere in the snow when she wasn’t in the kitchen. Snowboarding provided a break from reality and a time to be at total peace and enjoy the beauty of nature around her. Another passion of hers is archery, and she made a point to shoot at an archery course in Flagstaff every day before work. With all that practice, she’s proven to be an excellent archer, so it’s probably best to stay on her good side!

Fun Facts about our Favorite Chefs: Chef Rochelle DanielChef Dushyant Singh | Artizen, Crafted American Kitchen & Bar

Besides being the Executive Chef of one of the hottest new properties of 2016, Chef Singh is an avid motorcycle aficionado. He also loves watching and playing all sports (except for baseball) and seeks a huge amount of inspiration and motivation from athletes all over the world.

Fun Facts About Our Favorite Chefs: Chef SinghChef Anthony DeMuro | Different Pointe of View

Chef Anthony DeMuro is the mastermind behind all the decadent culinary artistry at DPOV, one of the most iconic restaurants in the Valley, with picturesque views and an incredible menu selection. What you may not be aware of is that Chef Anthony loves music and has a collection of close to 2,000 records. He’s also a true outdoorsman, making sure to get out and work out by hiking and riding bikes. If you follow him on Facebook, you’ll also be able to tell that he is a fantastic photographer, shooting many of his dishes and mountain views from the restaurant.

Fun Facts about our Favorite Chefs: Chef Anthony DeMuroChef Robert Bush | Bootleggers Modern American Steakhouse

The newest addition to the Bootleggers family spent a great deal of time as Randy Johnson’s personal chef. When he’s not smoking some of the best meats in the Valley, he can be found spending time with his family. He also loves to create something out of nothing, whether that involves building something, doing improvements on his home, tending to his fresh herb garden or letting some brass fly from a new toy at the Scottsdale Gun Club.

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Robert BushChef Josh Bracher | Sonata’s Restaurant

There is no disputing that the newly opening Sonata’s Restaurant is garnering a lot of attention for the innovation menu offerings and the opulent details of the dining room. What you might not know about Executive Chef Josh Bracher is that he can be found on his off time riding BMX bikes and that he used to ride competitively.

Fun Facts About Our Favorite Chefs: Chef Josh BracherChef Kody Harris | Fresko A Mediterranean Kitchen

This former Executive Chef of Thirsty Lion has opened up her new spot, Fresko, in Ahwatukee is a master in the kitchen, but she also has some interesting things going on outside of the kitchen as well. She is a volunteer at Halo Animal Rescue and contributes as a dog walker when she has free time. She’s also a hardcore Chicago Cubs fan and has an entire room in her house devoted to Cubs memorabilia which she calls her “Cubs Den.” On top of that, she is a self-professed ‘geek” for all things science fiction and has watched all available episodes of the Star Wars movies more times than she can count and was one of the first folks in line to see “Rogue One” recently.

Chef Matt Taylor | Gertrude’s at Desert Botanical Garden

Chef Matt Taylor has a slew of fun facts, so many that I could have written an entire article just about him! Here are a few gems!  Chef Taylor is obsessed with the ocean, surfing and particularly waves. He spends plenty of his spare time studying, observing, and gathering all forms of memorabilia on the subject. If he weren’t a chef, he would have pursued a career in Marine Biology. He speaks fluent French and actually attended a French-speaking school in Canada prior to moving to the United States. He has a huge appreciation and love of nature which was instilled in him by his father who was a mountain climber and ski guide.

Fun Facts About Our Favorite Chefs: Chef Matt TaylorChef Silvana Salcido Esparza | Barrio Cafe and Barrio Gran Reserva

Chef Silvana is an absolute force to be reckoned with in the Valley and you’d be hard pressed to find someone locally that hasn’t heard of her, and her influence is spreading nationwide. If you follow her on social media, you surely know that she spends a great deal of time restoring classic cars, but you may not know that she is also a historian of sorts. She has spent a great deal of time researching her genealogy. Coming from a long line of bakers has made her extremely interested in seeing how far back she can get information on her family and even has a book in the works on the topic. I can’t wait to read it!

Fun Facts about our Favorite Chefs

Photo Courtesy of Awe Collective

Chef Robert Nixon | Wrigley Mansion

The Wrigley Mansion is a symbol of opulence and high class here in the Valley and Chef Robert Nixon is at the helm of one of the most well-run kitchens in Arizona. When he’s not on property creating innovative and highly desired after dishes, he enjoys spending time with his family and cheering on the Kansas City Chiefs as a superfan. He also makes time to take gorgeous photos of the views from Wrigley Mansion.

Fun Facts about our Favorite Chefs: Robert NixonChef Fidencio Alatriste | Toro Latin Restaurant and Rum Bar

Chef Alatriste, a former staple at Bootleggers and now of Toro, spends a ton of time in the kitchen, crafting new and classic recipes for the restaurant. Between the kitchen and spending time with his wife and children he doesn’t have a lot of free time, but when he happens to catch a few minutes here or there, he likes to take 30 minutes for meditation or reading. He also has an impressive watch collection!

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Fidencio Alatriste

Chef Jabari Corbin | Plate & Apron

I have had mad love for Chef Corbin for awhile now and have been fascinated by his life and journey to Arizona. He’s a delightful human; smart, funny and crazy talented. I recently learned that while he was in culinary school, he was part of a Salsa dancing team. He continued to be part of the team for a short time after school until his schedule got a little too full. While he doesn’t compete any longer, when he finds some free time, he likes to get out and show his moves. If you’re lucky, you might catch him at salsa night at Dave & Busters!

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Habari Corbin

Chef Jeff Kraus | Crepe Bar

Chef Jeff Kraus is one of the first Chefs I met on this crazy PhoenixBites journey. We met back in 2010 when he was running Trucking Good Food and he single-handedly made my boys lovers of crepes (and nutella). We make it out to Crepe Bar as often as possible, partially because of the food but also because of the energy that Chef Kraus brings to the space and his team. What you might not know about him is that he used to bowl professionally and is anticipating the day that he is old enough to take part in the Senior PBA Tour. He also recently became inspired by a holiday purchase, vintage ceramic Christmas lights, and will be adding to the set he has now. The colors and texture really spoke to him. Jeff also buys thrift snow globes and gives them as host gifts when visiting friends, spreading  the holiday spirit all throughout the year. And all those tattoos? Each one is inspired by things that he has experienced throughout his life, going all the way back to his childhood.

Fun Facts about our Favorite Valley Chefs: Chef Jeff KrausChef Jason McGrath | Second Story Liquor Bar

Chef Jason McGrath eat, drinks, and breathes his craft. He is incredibly passionate about permaculture and really closing the gap between chefs and farmers. When he’s not in the kitchen, perfecting dishes and flavor profiles, you can find him outdoors, especially snowboarding when the weather permits. His college career led him to a greater understanding of his path, through studies in psychology and philosophy, he learned that he needed to pave his own way, which its obvious that he has done. He also is all about competitive beard growing. His strong poses are definitely helping!

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Jason McGrath

Chef Jacques Qualin | J&G Steakhouse

Chef Jacques Qualin is responsible for some of the stellar dishes at the signature restaurant situated atop the Phoenician resort. When he is not in the kitchen, you can expect to find him decked out in camo hunting deer, elk, mountain lions and the occasional bear. He also makes a trek to the Hudson River once a year to fish for bass. I can’t even begin to imagine the meals that are created after those trips!

Fun Facts about of Favorite Valley ChefsL Chef Jacques QualinChef Adam Allison | Chaco Flaco Social & Left Coast Burrito Co.

There are a slew of restaurants opening this year that I cannot wait for, and up towards the top of the list is definitely Left Coast Burrito Co. While not technically a “restaurant” by traditional standards, this gourmet food truck is going to rock your socks off! (I caught a glimpse of the menu and I have 2 words for you: El Chattanooga!) The food that Chef Adam and his crew are cooking up for this tasty eatery on wheels is going to be out of this world good. They are expecting to his the streets in a matter of days at this point, so I feel pretty confident in saying the Chef likely has little free time at this point, but when it eventually rolls around, we know exactly what he will be doing. He’ll likely be catching a movie, solo. In the crazy restaurant industry, filled with noise and a healthy dose of the unexpected, he relishes in having those hours to himself, letting his mind get caught up in the story. He likens it to a mini-mental vacation. We hope you get to take that vacation soon, Chef, but only after I get to try that El Chattanooga, pretty please!

Fun Facts about our Favorite Valley Chefs: Chef Adam Allison

Chef Brent Kille | Crudo

There is no question that the menu at Crudo is exciting, innovative and at all times exquisite. Chef Kille assists in maintaining a high standard in the kitchen. When he has a moment away, you can find him getting together with other chefs and industry folks for 18 holes. He also recently began collecting cast iron skillets. He presently has 10 in his collection, with one being almost 100 years old!

fun facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Brent Kille

Chef Isaac Carter | Bourbon & Bones and Crab & Mermaid

Chef Carter is especially busy, manning not one but two outstanding kitchens. When he is able to find himself with some time off he’s going to jump in a plane, train or automobile! Did you know that Chef Carter has been to every state in the US, with the exception of Hawaii, driven across the entire country 5 times, visited every province in Canada and has traveled to 17 foreign countries. On top of that he once lived in Haiti and has moved more than 45 times!

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Isaac Carter

Photo Credit: Food & Lifestyles Photography

Chef Brian Archibald | Boulders Resort & Spa

When Chef Brian Archibald isn’t focused on perfecting his menu at the Boulders and creating handmade charcuterie (everything from prosciutto, coppa, lardo and soppressata) he can be found  hiking. His favorite trails locally are Tom’s Thumb and Piestewa Peak. If he finds himself up in Flagstaff, he’ll make time to fit in some foraging while hiking around Bill Williams Mountain.

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Brian Archibald

Chef Fabrice Buschtetz | Cuisine & Wine Bistro

With the recent opening of the second Cuisine & Wine Bistro location, its a safe bet that Chef Fabrice Buschetz has very little free time. When he catches a quick moment and needs to release some stress, you can find him somewhere behind a big engine whether that is his Harley or humvee!

Fun Facts about our favorite chefs: Chef Fabrice Buschtetz

Chef Gregory Weiner | Buck & Rider

A recent takeover at the Buttes had me thinking that we might lose the talent of Chef Gregory Weiner here in the Valley, but thankfully he was promptly swooped up by LGO Hospitality and you can now find him at Buck & Rider. When he is not busy creating spectacular coastal cuisine, you may find him racing cars or motorcycles, prepping for his next tough mudder race (he’s participated in in 5 so far!). Chef Gregory is also the middle child of 5 and he hails from the birthplace of Leinenkugel beer, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

Fun Facts about our favorite Chefs: Chef Gregory Weiner

Chef Alex Stratta | The Herb Box

As the Director of Culinary for both Herb Box locations, is can be understood that Chef Alex Stratta has surprisingly little down time. He shared with us that when he finds some time here and there that he really enjoys bicycling, riding motorcycles, reading non-fiction, and rifle shooting. Truth be told, he relishes in spending his downtime with his 9-year-old twins, Marco and Bianca.

Fun Facts about our Favorite Chefs: Chef Alex Stratta

Photo Credit: Carl Schultz

Chef Miguel Sanchez | Wadaa Tacos and Catering

Chef Miguel Sanchez is slowly creating a street taco empire in the Valley. What initially started as a small space in Scottsdale, catering to the late night set, has blown up and now has a huge following (check out the celebrity page on his website) as well as a brick and mortar location in Phoenix. Miguel’s passion and drive come from a strong belief in God. The name “Wadaa” goes back to his high school days and was something he and his friends said to one another as an alternative to “what’s up?” When he’s not busy planning total world taco domination he loves to immerse himself in the outdoors which typically includes camping and four wheeling. He’s also a great single and, yes ladies, he’s single!

Fun Facts about our Favorite Chefs: Miguel Sanchez

I hope that you have learned something new about your favorite chefs with these fun facts. I plan for 2017 to focus more on the people behind the apron (don’t worry, I’ll still keep you up to date on all the latest opening and events, too).

Here’s to a brilliant 2017!

If you are looking for the best and latest in Arizona restaurant and culinary news, please make sure to sign up for our newsletter, give us a like on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram to make sure that you never miss a bite!

© Taryn Jeffries 2017

About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, 2017 Food Writer of the Year (Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame) Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a freelance writer, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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3 Responses

  1. Taryn, we so enjoyed reading your insights into some of our favorite chefs. Since you also write for a couple magazines, we thought we would mention that you may need someone to proof your work. Now, we have to admit that Bob’s whole family were in the newspaper business and Peg’s mother was a schoolteacher so proper grammar was very important in our formative years. Two quick points: you have fallen into the apostrophe trap like so many these days. The Boulders Resort and Spa has no apostrophe. In your profile on Brent Kille you may want to edit to say that he “assists” in maintaining the high standards.
    We have to admit we didn’t read every profile yet. We read the ones of the chefs we know and admire and then we are going to go back to read about the rest! We are not trying to scold you. Your writing is very interesting and well developed. Unfortunately computer “spell checking and grammar checking” isn’t always enough. It is obvious from your writing that these will be easy fixes for you.

    • Thanks so much for reaching out, and especially for reading the Fun Facts article. As a one woman show, I rely heavily on the editing programs I use, but no program is fully intuitive. I appreciate the critique and have made the fixes you noted as well as double checked all the additional entries. Hoping that you keep reading and I will keep editing and re-editing!

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