James Porter of Petite Maison in Scottsdale on Phoenix as a Food Town and What He's Got Coming on the Horizon
This is part two of our interview with chef James Porter of Petite Maison in Scottsdale. The restaurant underwent substantial changes two months ago, when Porter and his wife, Wendy, announced they'd be switching up the menu and décor to reflect more modern French sensibilities. On Monday, we chatted with the chef about his motivation for doing so -- if you missed that part of the interview, you can read it here. Today, we're back to get his thoughts on Phoenix as a food town (or rather, as a not food town) and to find out what else he's got cooking.
Lauren Saria Chef James Porter behind the new bar at Petite Maison.
See also: 5 Best Places for Dessert in Scottsdale
It's a bittersweet thing to see one of the city's few upscale French restaurants go the modern route, especially when Porter acknowledges that there aren't any truly "classic French restaurants" in town. But the chef insists the dearth of white tablecloth restaurants serving coq au vin and ratatouille is merely a consequence of the Valley's somewhat stunted development as a food town.
"Phoenix is not a food town," Porter says. "It's just not. And I wish that it could be, and I hope to be a part of the moment when people go, "Ah ha!" and "Oh, yeah!" and we turn the corner. But people still want chain restaurants in this town. People still love it."
For Porter, who's a candid guy, it also comes down to what he considers a smart business move.
"There's supply and demand," he says. "We can all cook for our egos, but egos don't pay the bills."
That's why you'll also find the restaurant stopped its late-night staff meal, a feature Porter says he started when upscale restaurants offering late-night menus was a rarer thing. Now it's not so hard to find -- particularly in Scottsdale -- so he's opted to give the people what they've wanted for years: happy hour.
And Petite Maison is doing a competitive one, too. With half-off glass wines, beer, and signature cocktails; $1 oysters; a $13 selection of three cheese; and $6 snacks, including lobster poutine, pate, and smoked salmon tartar.
As for the future, Porter says he has more than one new project in the works, which he says we can expect within the next year to year and a half. He's tight-lipped on details, giving only these few tantalizing clues:
"You may see things on the horizon . . . a group of us chefs doing things together. You may see partnerships with other chefs . . . you may see all sorts of odd combinations.