10: Joe Johnston

Categories: Chow Bella

Joe Johnston tastemaker.jpg
Photo courtesy of Joe Johnston
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.

Today: The man who has made Gilbert safe for hipsters.

Tastemaker 10: Joe Johnston

See also: Joe Johnston's Perfect Food Day

Not everyone gets to see their vision come to life, but take one look at the green lawns and white porches of Agritopia and you're looking at Joe Johnston's dream come to fruition. Johnston went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and Stanford to be an engineer and worked as an engineering consultant. But don't let his well-polished exterior mislead you - he's a farmer's son, who grew up on the family farm that has now become the ultimate example of urban agriculture. Between the Farm Grill, his Real BBQ and Liberty Market, you can taste a variety of expressions of Johnston's culinary style.

I arrived in Phoenix with... with my parents and baby food: I was 2 years old.

If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be...
1. My wife Cindy: we are inseparable and she really knows her food. The Lebanese are also famously hospitable and fun.
2. Jesus: He gets a bum rap for being a killjoy, when I am sure he would be the most enjoyable and interesting guest of all time. If he chose to turn water into wine, it would be the best ever made.
3. Thomas Keller: I have so much respect for his focus and attitude on food, service, and the restaurant business. Such a gentle, yet passionate man who has had tremendous influence, even on the local dining scene.
4. Kevin Binkley: A disciple of Thomas Keller, I never tire of his explanation of how and why he is preparing a particular item. No detail is below his scrutiny, yet he is unfailingly gracious.
5. Todd Bostock: The man who will, against serious odds, propel AZ wine into the limelight. He is funny, self-deprecating, and insatiable in his desire to improve his product and process while being a team player and AZ food proponent.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Comedor Guadalajara. Not fancy, not famous, not hipster, not foodie, not expensive, BUT when I think of the Valley, I think of AZ-Sonoran Mexican food. Comedor is the mother of all such restaurants in the Valley. It is huge, windowless, frequented by the locals and the Phoenix power brokers (very busy), and fast (don't let the wait deter you). The menu has all of the standards and then some and the quality is excellent. If you are looking for cotija cheese, forget it. This is the land of mild cheddar or longhorn. Just be prepared for a feeling of drowsiness to come over you about two hours after you eat. Give in and take a brief siesta.

One menu item this city could do without is... nachos of all varieties, Velveeta through über fancy - it is a pretty lazy dish that gets kinda gross as it cools and becomes soggy/congealed.

My last meal in Phoenix would be... I am a fan of the entire State of Arizona culinarily, so I would relive my "Perfect Food Day" on my Vespa. The only change I would make is at the very end. Sadly, Canela Bistro will be no more, so I would dine at the home of the Bostocks (Dos Caezas Wineworks) and hopefully have some pork dish created from a hog their son had raised.

The Tastemakers so far:
100: Tracy Dempsey
99: Craig DeMarco
98: Lara Mulchay
97: M.J. Coe
96: Betty Alatorre de Hong
95: Eric Schaefer
94: Hanna Gabrielsson
93: Shinji Kurita
92: Silvana Salcido Esparza
91: Mike Pitt
90: Christina Barrueta
89: Christopher Gross
88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung
87: DJ Fernandes
86: Cullen Campbell
85: Chris Lee
84. Gwen Ashley Walters
83: Tony Morales
82: Lylah Ledner
81: Andrea White
80: Lori Hashimoto
79. Mrs. White
78: Eugenia Theodosopolous
77: Lou & Lovey Borenstein
76: Anthony Patafio
75: Carl Seacat
74: Sacha Levine
73: Sharon Salomon
72: Johnny Chu
71: Susie Timm
70: Jason Silberschlag
69: Gina Miller
68: Cindy Gentry
67: Amy Binkley
66: Dave Anderson
65: Mark Tarbell
64: Marianne Belardi
63: Audrey Lasalle
62: Brandon Gauthier
61: Brad and Kat Moore
60: Denise Clayton
59: Nobuo Fukuda
58: Richie Moe
57: Robin Trick
56: Alberto Della Casa and Letizia de Lucia
55: Farah Khalid
54: Dave Andrea
53: Vincent Guerithault
52: Danielle Leoni
51: Stan Zawatski
50: Maya Dailey
target="_blank">49: Duc Liao
48: Lisa Reinhardt
47: Isam Saed
46: Greg Peterson
45: Marco Bianco
44: Mark Fratu
43: Wendell Crow
42. Barb Harris
41: Michael Perry
40: Jeff Kraus
39: Ryan Avery
38: Charleen Badman
37: Damon Brasch
36: Dwayne Allen
35: Jason Asher
34: Pamela Hamilton
33: Victoria Chavez
32: Giovanni Scorzo
31: Tim Wilson
30: Travis Nass
29: Jason Alford
28: Clint Spotleson
27: Daniel Wayne
26: Korina Adkins
25: Carla Wade Logan
24: Jeff Zimmerman
23: Gabriele Bertaccini
22: Claudio Urciuoli
21: Peter DeRuvo
20: Natalie Morris
19: Eliot Wexler
18: Sam Fox
17: Bryan Dooley
16: Bernie Kantak
15: Jim Cerreta Sr.
14: Josh Hebert
13: Michael Brown
12: Dave Johnson
11: Chrysa Robertson

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Location Info

Joe's Farm Grill

3000 E. Ray Road, Gilbert, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Joe's Real BBQ

301 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Liberty Market

230 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Comedor Guadalajara

1830 S. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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@DosCabezas I meant what I said in the @ChowBellaPHX article. By the way, we were in Kansas settlement yesterday!


@realjoe what the what?! I've made the drive from Kansas Settlement to Sonoita before... I think it is only 1.5 hrs. You should come see us!


@DosCabezas I wanted to surprise you but time got away from us!


@DosCabezas I know! Next time for sure. I was in Bisbee picking up some custom made hats.

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