Kevin Binkley Dishes on The French Laundry and His Badass Wife
Nikki Buchanan Kevin Binkley paints a plate
6920 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
36889 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree
This is part two of my interview with Kevin Binkley, chef-owner of Binkley's Restaurant and Café Bink. Read part one of the interview with chef Kevin Binkley.
What was your first cooking job: I started cooking when I was 14 at TCBY. I learned some very valuable things there -- how to make crepes and spin yogurt and most importantly, how to sweep and mop and do dishes.
Chef from whom you've learned the most:Patrick O'Connell from Inn at Little Washington. I learned everything from him. He truly opened my eyes. He took me under his wing and taught me everything about the front and back of the house as well as how to dine and know what good food is. He taught me that food should taste good first and be fun second. He's one of the smartest people I've ever known.
Didn't you meet Amy [your wife] at the Inn at Little Washington: Yeah, Amy was working the hardest station, which was sauté. She was badass. I was attracted to her in every way. I thought she was the coolest thing, and I still do. She's still badass.
Favorite local restaurant(s) other than your own:
In no particular order... Rancho Pinot, Nobuo at Teeter House, Posh, Saint Francis, Petite Maison, Razz, F&B, Shinbay, Elements, and Mi Comida (formerly Mi Cocina Mi Pais).
I haven't heard anyone mention Razz in a while: Have you been to Razz's lately? I like Razz. I like to sit in front of him while he cooks. He's crazy. He's cool. He's old school and his food is good.
Favorite restaurants in other cities:
Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain for combining avante garde technique, incredible service, atmosphere and delicious food;Le Bristol in Paris, France for its attention to detail;
Atera in NYC for its avante-garde techniques; Narasawa in Tokyo, Japan. I went there with Nobuo, and it was just incredible, a combination of Japanese and French cuisines.
Coi in San Francisco, which is interesting because some people don't like it. It gets mixed reviews. My experience is, it's incredible. I sat down and started reading the menu and it was just a lot of stuff you don't expect to see.
Chef you'd like to meet and why:
Not anyone, really. I just want to eat their food. Isn't that weird? Amy and I were at a famous restaurant in San Francisco and they figured out who we were and asked us if we'd like to go in the kitchen and meet the chef. We just rolled our eyes and said "sure." But they're not super-stars to me. Some of them are so cool and their hair is spiked. I just hate it.
Most important thing you learned at the Inn at Little Washington:
It's about the entire experience. While the food is incredibly important, it doesn't shine as bright when all the other factors aren't up to par.
Most important thing you learned at The French Laundry:
Don't be scared to experiment and change. Thomas [Keller] focuses on food without compromise. Patrick [O'Connell], on the other hand, focuses on the whole experience. Both are five-star restaurants but they sit at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Describe your philosophy about sourcing ingredients:
Use the best, no exceptions. Fortunately, using the best usually means local, organic and sustainable. But I use local only if it's as good as or better than anything else I can get.
Your take on the Farm-to-Table movement: It's been happening forever at great restaurants; now we just have a term for it.
Nikki Buchanan Desserts waiting to be plated at Binkley's
Do you consider yourself a molecular gastronomist: No. I consider myself someone who loves interesting, creative, and, most importantly, delicious food. With that comes what people call "molecular gastronomy."
What should be written on your tombstone:
This man loved him some grub.