19: Eliot Wexler
From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Photo courtesy of Eliot Wexler
Today: A man whose reputation preceeds him.
Tastemaker 19: Eliot Wexler
As a city kid who grew up in downtown Chicago, Eliot Wexler experienced the eclectic array of cuisine and culture that Chicago has to offer. A lover of the culinary arts, he traveled the city forwards and backwards looking for the next great bite. In August 2008, he opened noca restaurant to share his love of food and wine with Phoenix.
I arrived in Phoenix with... I moved from Chicago in the fall of 1992 and was living at Hayden Square in Tempe with a brand new convertible. I wanted to take the car for a spin to check out the surroundings so I dropped the top and pulled out on Mill Ave. and went north. I was not familiar with the neighborhood, so because Mill curves around, and I ended up travelling west on Van Buren and a couple girls waved or whistled. I was thinking the car was a game changer, and the details are fuzzy at this point, but sometime later I realized that the congeniality was of a professional nature.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... I would have to start with some of my family who are not with us anymore.
My father's mother, Lillian, who lived to be 107 and played the stock market to the end. She hightailed it out of the Ukraine around the very early 1900's and met my grandfather who had also left Russia around the same time. They opened a business and she invested her spare money as she went along in the stock market and was incredibly successful. She taught me to read the stock pages in the 4th grade, which has had a major impact on my life. Her wisdom and business acumen were the foundation for my entire family. I often remember the things she would tell me about life when I was young, and back then I was not so sure, but now I know she was right.
Her husband, my Papa Lou, died when I was very young...maybe 3, so I have only a small memory of sitting on his lap and him feeding me grapes. My grandmother always told me that he called me this Yiddish name that I don't remember but it meant something very nice. I would like to have the opportunity to sit with him as an adult.