Chef Chris Mayo on the Future of Central Bistro in Phoenix and the Independent Dining Scene
Lauren Saria Chef Chris Mayo of Central Bistro
3160 E. Camelback Road
Chris Mayo didn't grow up with a dream of becoming a chef. He didn't learn the basics of the craft as a child, at his mother's hip. In fact, he thought he was going to be a firefighter -- even signed up for fire school and served as a reserve fire fighter in Scottsdale -- until he was a young adult.
But once he realized his high school kitchen job had grown into a passion, Mayo went all in: He enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, packed his bags, and left. He landed an internship at the Michelin three-starred Daniel restaurant and later went on to work under chef Peter Hoffman at the now-defunct Savoy.
But Mayo, who was born in Boston and grew up in the Valley, always knew he wanted to return to Phoenix. And did in the winter of 2004.
"When I got back, I was exhausted," Mayo says. "It probably took me a couple months to feel normal again."
After recovering from big-city life, Mayo started in the kitchen at T. Cook's before moving to Estate House and, later, J&G Steakhouse. He fell comfortably into the upscale dining scene in town, which at that time revolved mostly around resort restaurants.
Lauren Saria Inside Central Bistro in the Biltmore neighborhood.
"Up to that point in my career, I had really just been focused on food," Mayo says.
So he took a job with Sam Fox to learn some of the ins-and-outs of the rest of the industry. He worked at several of Fox's concepts, including Olive and Ivy, The Greene House, and most recently, North. But the corporate gigs didn't allow Mayo -- or many other chefs -- to create his own food, so he left to return to the city's blossoming independent dining scene.
"I feel like the independent dining scene has really caught up to hotels," Mayo says. "When I came back to Phoenix [in 2004] things weren't being done on the same level."
Mayo has been at Central Bistro for about a month now, replacing Milan-born chef Andrea Volpi, who's still overseeing the kitchen at Local Bistro in Scottsdale.