Chef Chat: Payton Curry, Caffe Boa

Categories: Chef Chat

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Nicki Escudero
Payton Curry
Thanks to Payton Curry, the 30-year-old executive chef at Caffe Boa, the Valley's dining scene is becoming more local-oriented due to his "locavore" approach. 

And to think that he almost didn't make the move to the Valley.

"I was scared shitless," Curry says about moving here from San Francisco. "One of my old chefs and mentors told me that I was committing culinary suicide by moving to Arizona."

The lure of opening the now-closed Digestif was enough to bring him here, though. Since Digestif closed (it was much heralded, despite its demise), and after several offers from restaurants around the country, Curry decided to take over the kitchen at Caffe Boa, where he made over the menu after only 2 weeks. 

Now the traditional Italian restaurant has more of a "California-Italian" style, with a menu full of locally grown ingredients. And with the development of a new Tempe Urban Garden, Caffe Boa will feature even more local flavor.

"We owe it to our guests to get the best quality ingredeitns that we can get," Curry says.

Curry attributes cooking for himself as the catalyst in shedding weight after playing rugby in college and partying hard. While he was studying for a business degree, the Minnesota native would give pre-cooked meals to his friends and host big dinner parties for his pals. He also worked in restaurants growing up and made the decision to go to the Culinary Institute of America after he saw how much his friends enjoyed his food.

Since then, Curry's traveled and worked all over the world and is now introducing more diverse tastes into the Caffe Boa menu, including Middle Eastern-inspired flavors. If there's something you're craving, though, let Curry know--he once made fried chicken for a pregnant woman at Digestif.

He limits all his meals to five components to make it easy to taste all the flavors. He also insists he runs a "European-style" kitchen where nothing is wasted.

Curry hopes his sustainable approach enables him to open up his own restaurant some day with his wife, who is the general manager at Caffe Boa. And Curry now knows Arizona isn't nearly as scary as he thought.

"Everyone wants to think that everything's Tex-Mex here," Curry says, "but then you find little gems."


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