What Would Help Make Better Cooks in the Valley?

Categories: Chow Bella

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com. Miss a question? Go here.

Disney Enterprises/Pixar Animation
Sure, the Valley can claim a lot of talented chefs as its own. But what about the cooking scene as a whole? What would help make bad cooks good, good cooks better, and ready the next generation of tastemakers?

Here's what a few of our chefs and restaurateurs had to say on the subject:

Michael Rusconi, Chef and Owner, Rusconi's American Kitchen (Opening in September)

Spend the time to fully learn your craft. Students and cooks coming into the profession are in a rush to achieve the next cooking level but often don't understand the knowledge required to lead a kitchen. I encourage young cooks to take their time and learn from their chef. It's challenging because everyone has to pay their bills and the culinary profession doesn't really pay very well until you have reached a higher level.

Jeff Krausbandd2.jpg
Jeff Kraus
Chef and Owner, Crepé Bar

Bigger appetites for originality, education, and experimentation -- and more "getting your hands messy" experience than paid education.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GregTroiloPic.jpg
Gregg Troilo,
Proprietor, British Open Pub & Grill

In an ideal world, in order to be a cook, one should begin at the bottom and "walk a mile" in all the positions in an organization -- from the lowest to the highest position in the organization. A cook needs to be able to see the big picture and to understand that every position is important and contributes to the customer experience. Check your ego at the door!

Thumbnail image for KelseyOisten.jpg
Kelsey Oisten,
Director of Marketing, Caballero

Providing a blank canvas for your cooks to explore in the kitchen not only helps keep fresh and new menu choices but also helps your cooks to share and utilize new and old techniques.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for B&Dchristophergross.jpg
Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner,
Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge

Going to a great restaurant in New York to work for a year would make Phoenix look like a holiday.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Most of this advice is either self-serving garbage (They don't want to work their way up! READ: They keep leaving for better pay.), or just nonsensical PR-speak (Improve your palate, understand the dish!).  The problem is very simple - it takes a significant amount of low-paid staff to execute quality, scratch cooking with quality ingredients, at MODERATE prices.  The result is staff that are constantly looking for better pay.  You have to - its the only way to get a raise, and sometimes even to move up.  Turnover is a massive hidden cost.  Executive chefs want low-pay automatons.  They want to make their numbers.  They want their bonus.  Career development?  Most consider it training their competition.  Generally, there is nothing collegial about the culinary scene here.  BTW, been here 20 years, cooking pro for 10.


So, want to fix it?  Become a better food scene?  Pay more.  Not much, just a livable amount.  Profit goals with an eye toward business sustainability rather than, well, anything else.  Second, lead your crew in every sense of the word.  Third, focus on food, not on the franchisability (word?)  of your "concept".  Fuck "concepts", BTW.  Talent will blossom, and this scene will kick ass.


I cooked my way through college - ASU Business Management.  I worked at a lot of different restaurants as varied as Mexican dishout, Montis, San Marcos Hotel, the original Whole Wheat Bread Baking Company in Chandler, Vegetarian Restaurants, and Italian Pizza Joints.  The one thing that I knew in my heart was that if the pay were better, the cooks would give a shit.  Right now, it's a horrible situation.  It takes a lot of talent to cook properly (except at fast food restaurants where pre-mixes and timers do most of the cooking) in a real restaurant.  Some cooks I knew used to screw up meals because they just didn't give a crap.  The pay is horrible!!!!

Bruce Griffin III
Bruce Griffin III

Blow up at least one of the culinary "schools" in the area. Thats a start.

Now Trending

From the Vault