Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups on the Perfect Enchiladas and Why Sporks Suck

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Aaron Pool
Owner, founder
Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
3313 N. 7th St.

When you hear the word "Gadzooks," you probably don't think of food. Toys, maybe. Or a children's clothing store. But a place for a good meal isn't likely to be the closest association.

"People assume it's going to be shitty," Aaron Pool says of the restaurant's name. "It's not like I planned it like that, but I like to under-promise and over-deliver."

If you've eaten at the quirkily named Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup in Central Phoenix, you may have noticed a tall skinny guy with a messy mop of hair working the line. He blends in with the rest of the restaurant's staff, but to the surprise of many, he's no employee.

That fresh-faced guy in the gray Gadzooks shirt is Aaron Pool, the restaurant's owner and creator. And, yes, he's still a few years shy of 30.

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Chef Patrick Karvis of TapHouse Kitchen: "If I Were to Open My Own Restaurant, This Would Be It"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Patrick Karvis
Executive Chef
TapHouse Kitchen

There's certainly no shortage of beer-focused restaurants opening around town these days. Which chef Patrick Karvis knows is making it difficult for his restaurant to stand out.

"That's the way it works," the chef says with a shrug. "Five years ago it was sushi."

It's a fitting reference since the four-month old TapHouse Kitchen sits in the former home of Blue Wasabi, a sushi restaurant that opened back in 2008. And Karvis knows first-hand how trends come and go, having been living and cooking in the Valley since 1992.

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Pastry Chef Marisa Lown on Eating Well: "It's Not a One Size Fits All for Everyone"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Evie Carpenter
Marisa Lown
Pastry chef
The Radical Cupcake

These days you won't find pastry chef Marisa Lown in a restaurant kitchen, but that doesn't mean she's left the Valley pastry scene. Lown is still active both in her kitchen and on social media as The Radical Cupcake, which was once the name of her custom bakeshop that specialized in allergy-friendly and organic baked goods. She stopped that side of the business, but is now offering allergy-friendly consulting services to restaurants and chefs.

According to Lown, it's a growing priority for chefs and restaurateurs.

"From a restaurant perspective, food allergies are the bane of their existence," she says.

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Brian Konefal of Coppa Cafe in Flagstaff: "People Should Travel for Food"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Brian Konefal
Executive Chef/Co-owner
Coppa Cafe
1300 S. Milton Rd, Flagstaff

Considering that Coppa Cafe has been open for more than three years, it's pretty surprising how little attention the restaurant's received. There have been articles written in local media and even some national mentions, but on the whole, Coppa Cafe's following remains limited to northern Arizona diners.

And that's too bad, because the food here is really, really good.

The fact that the cozy, European-style restaurant is located in a generic Flagstaff strip mall is probably to blame. But chef and co-owner Brian Konefal believes good food -- and yes, his food -- is worth the drive.

"People should travel for food," Konefal says.

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Kelly Fletcher of The Revival on Why He's Playing It Safe

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Kelly Fletcher
Kelly Fletcher
The Revival

For years chef Kelly Fletcher wooed diners from the kitchen at Tempe's House of Tricks, where he'd been working for some 10 years. But earlier this spring he left that post, seeking an opportunity to really do his own thing. He teamed up with business partner Chad Withycombe to breathe new life into Tempe's Mucho Gusto restaurant. They shut the place down for less than a month, remodeled, and The Revival was born.

Expectations were high but it's been a rocky start for the Arizona-native chef. Fletcher has already had to stop serving weekend lunch and brunch and admits he's been holding back so far.

"It had to be safe," Fletcher says of his menu.

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Bob Tam of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour: "We Want to Feed Those Who Feed Others"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Bitter & Twisted
Bob Tam
Chef, partner
Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour

In the words of Bitter & Twisted Principle Barman and Proprietor Ross Simon, the downtown cocktail lounge is "a bar that happens to have great food." As in, first and foremost, this place is about the drinks.

But just because Bitter & Twisted isn't a "restaurant" per se, doesn't mean they've skimped when it comes to the culinary offerings. On the contrary, chef and partner Bob Tam has created an inspired menu of street food that's just about as forward-thinking as Simon's 24-page cocktail book. You might think that putting the drinks in the forefront would be a negative thing to a chef, but to the contrary Tam's used the situation to his advantage.

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Betty-Jane Hernandez of Havana Patio Cafe: "You Just Have to Roll with the Punches"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
BJ Hernandez of Havana Patio Cafe
BJ Hernandez
Havana Patio Cafe
Chef, owner

In 1991, when Betty-Jane (BJ) and Gilbert Hernandez opened Havana Cafe in a space just off Camelback Road, you couldn't even get chorizo or black beans in this town. You could smoke inside restaurant dining rooms (in fact, Havana Cafe eventually became the first non-smoking restaurant in the city) and very few people knew what Cuban food was all about.

Over the last two decades, little Havana Cafe has helped shape diners' understanding of the Caribbean island's cuisine. Or at least, they did until earlier this year when their building was sold to be razed and turned into a new restaurant from LGO Hospitality. The new concept will be the company's fourth in the bursting Arcadia dining scene.

"It's like the Foxs and the LGOs are having a turf war," Hernandez laughs.

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Matt Taylor of Gertrude's at Desert Botanical Garden: "It Doesn't Get More Arizonan Than This"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Chef Matt Taylor
Matt Taylor
Executive Chef
Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden

It's been about four months since news broke that chef Matt Taylor would be taking over the kitchen at Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden and since the initial announcement, we haven't head much from the chef or the restaurant. From the outside looking in, it would have been hard to tell there had been any change at all. The menu stayed the same and so did much of the staff.

But, as the chef explained to me last week, that's only because he was busy getting adjusted to a new kitchen -- while doing 1,200 covers a day.

"It would have been suicide" to make any changes during season, Taylor says.

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Jennifer Russo-Fitzgerald of The Market by Jennifer's: "I Think We're Finally Where We Want to Be"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Jennifer Russo-Fitzgerald.
Jennifer Russo-Fitzgerald
The Market by Jennifer's

It's been about five months since The Market by Jennifer's opened its doors on the west-side of the Gaslight Square shopping center in Arcadia. And if you haven't been into the restaurant since its first few weeks, you might be surprised by the changes that have already been made during this short amount of time.

For owner and experienced caterer Jennifer Russo-Fitzgerald, nailing down a concept that best fits the neighborhood has been a bit like trying to hit a moving target. But she's confident they're getting closer everyday and are continuing to make small changes to help the restaurant become the cozy, neighborhood place she originally envisioned.

"I think we're finally where we want to be," she says.

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Jared Lupin of Umami: "I Try to Have That Visionary Brain, But With Food"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Jared Lupin of Umami
Jared Lupin

It might be more accurate to call Umami's Jared Lupin a ramen artist rather than a chef. After all, he really is one -- a former graffiti artist whose work once graced a wall at his restaurant. But he also takes a creative approach to ramen that makes the dish more personal than customers might realize.

"I've given it back to the people," Lupin says of the trendy Japanese dish.

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