Joe Absolor of Clever Koi in Phoenix: "I'm Having to Hold Back a Little Bit."
Lauren Saria Joe Absolor of the Clever Koi in Phoenix.
You might already have heard the story behind the other half of Clever Koi's culinary team. Chef Jared Porter, formerly executive chef of The Parlor, has been in the business since age 15. He won a full ride to culinary school at the Art Institute of Phoenix and has had gigs in well-known kitchens such as Vincent on Camelback, Michael's at the Citadel, and LGO.
But a lot less known about Porter's co-chef at the sleek, modern restaurant, which opened in December. And it's partially because Joe Absolor hasn't been in the kitchen for all that long.
The 33-year-old chef worked in construction here in Phoenix until 2007, when health issues prevented him from continuing that career. After spending a summer at home in Washington to recover, Absolor knew he wanted to do something different. But wasn't sure what.
Lauren Saria Clever Koi's modern sign is on the back side of the building on Central Avenue.
At the suggestion of friends and family, he decided to pursue culinary school and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale.
Absalor quickly found out that being a culinary student doesn't mean you'll find a job. But it did help him become friends with Eytan Zias of the Phoenix Knife House. And it was Zias who helped the enthusiastic but inexperienced Absolor land a one-night stage with chef Payton Curry, then at Digestif. It was Absalor's first "real" experience in the kitchen.
Eventually Zias would also help Absolor get his first real restaurant job, opening Prado at the Montelucia under Italian chef Claudio Urciuoli. The gig wasn't as glamorous as it sounds. Absalor was a food runner.
"He wouldn't let me anywhere near the kitchen," Absolor says of Urciuoli.