Charleen Badman: On Lori Hashimoto, Chris Bianco's Mom, and the Kitchen Phrase That Gets Under Her Skin
Buchanan Charleen Badman
7125 East Fifth Avenue, Suite 31, Scottsdale
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This is part one of my interview with Charleen Badman, chef and co-owner of FnB, AZ Wine Merchants and Bodega. Come back Tuesday when Badman gives some juicy dish about cooking for famous people, the difference between male and female chefs and, um, her lady parts.
Charleen Badman is a classic bundle of contradictions. At first blush (and she'd be the one blushing), her blue eyes and open expression suggest the wholesomeness of a farm girl, an impression her quiet demeanor only fosters. Then you notice the tatts and the blond hair tinted an alarming shade of orange. But wait, what? The tattoos -- one of a leek and another of Ganesha, the Hindu god of knowledge, wisdom, and wealth -- seem more like thoughtful talismans than showy arm art. Is she spiritual, this aproned earth mother who speaks softly but with a shockingly sardonic tone? As a darling of the media world -- beloved locally and noticed by national publications such as Food & Wine -- you'd think she'd enjoy basking in the attention that comes with the accolades, but she keeps her head down and works her station, leaving the schmoozing to her partner, Pavle Milic. Badman scoffs at the term "celebrity chef." In fact, she scoffs at the term "chef," rejecting the glamorized BS that so often comes with her job these days.
Buchanan In the kitchen
Her career certainly didn't begin in a glamorous way. She enrolled in her Tucson high school's vocational program called FEAST (an acronym for Food Education and Service Training) when she was 16, working after school at an Italian restaurant for a year before completing a school-required internship at Donna Nordin's Café Terra Cotta, one of the most trendy, well-received restaurants in Tucson at the time. In 1992, Badman moved to Scottsdale to help Nordin open a second Café Terra Cotta in the Borgata, staying there as sous chef until she was 22. When Chrysa Robertson (who also had worked for Nordin) opened Rancho Pinot in Town & Country a year later, Badman joined her there, where she became indoctrinated in Robertson's philosophy: local, seasonal, simple and ingredient-driven. Longtime friend Milic, who was working in New York at the time, encouraged Badman to come to New York, helping her land a job at Anne Rosenzweig's Lobster Club, where she moved from line cook to chef de cuisine by her third year. Rosenzweig sent her on a one-month stage at Del Pescatore in Italy (the first Michelin three-star restaurant run by a female chef and the place where Badman learned to make pasta) and a two-week stage at legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley. In 2001, Badman opened her own place -- an intimate 60-seat bistro in Greenwich Village called Inside -- where she earned positive reviews and two invitations to cook at the Beard House.