Amy Bouzaglo of Amy's Baking Company on Bad Publicity, Bullies, and the Best (and Worst) Thing About Owning a Restaurant

Categories: Chef and Tell

Coutesy of Amy Bouzaglo
Amy Bouzaglo
Chef, owner
Amy's Baking Company
7366 E. Shea Blvd, Scottsdale

In the back corner of an unremarkable Scottsdale strip mall there's a quaint and extremely tidy restaurant owned by a married couple.

The wife, a blonde who considers herself an Arizona native, runs the back of the house. The husband, an immigrant who came to this country 14 years ago, oversees the front of house operations.

They've been serving simple food and desserts from their restaurant for the last eight years. The wife, who has experience in interior design, decorated the black and white restaurant. She says she even put the Venetian plaster on the walls herself.

If you didn't know their names were Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, this couple would be easy to like at best and unexceptional at worst. Unfortunately, chances are slim that you don't already know who they are.

More »

Jeffrey Amber of Forge Pizza on Costco Pizza and Differences Between Phoenix and The Bay

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Jeffrey Amber
Executive Chef
Forge Pizza
2502 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix

"I want it to be a pizza party," says chef Jeffrey Amber of the three-week-old Forge Pizza Phoenix. "I want it to be fun."

The 1,500 square foot eatery is the third Forge Pizza location to come from the Le Bon Temps Restaurants team, which consists of Michael Karp, Bob Burke, and Phoenix-based architect Andy Byrnes. This newest location is much smaller than the flagship restaurant located at on the waterfront of Jack London Square in Oakland. Amber describes that 4,800 square foot restaurant as "huge," "rockin'," and "loud" and though they're tight on space here, the chef says he aimes to bring that same feel and spirit to the Biltmore Fashion Park.

More »

Tom Harvey of Cuff in Glendale: "I Loved the Industry Long Before I Loved to Cook"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Tom Harvey
Executive Chef
5819 W Glendale Drive, Glendale

It might surprise you to hear that Tom Harvey, a former executive chef at Eddie V's in Scottsdale, chose to leave his comfortable, cushy corporate gig to help open an independent restaurant in downtown Glendale. But Harvey and business partner David Chang believe in the West Valley neighborhood.

'This community, it gives success to restaurants that really hard," Harvey says.

More »

Gabriele Bertaccini of iL Tocco Food: "Life Is About Beautiful Things"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Courtesy of Gabriele Bertaccini
Gabriele Bertaccini
Owner, Executive chef
il Tocco Food

Gabriele Bertaccini looks more like an Italian clothing model than a hardworking, ├╝ber successful chef. But if you get him talking about cooking, dining, and Italian cuisine, it becomes immediately clear that he's much more than just a handsome face and an exceptionally well-tailored suit. He waxes poetic about the beauty of sunsets, the sensual side of dining, and his passion for bringing a taste of his Italian homeland to his guests in a way that's nothing short of inspirational.

This fall the chef's underground dining series, Culinary Mischief, will enter its fifth season and already the first event has been met with overwhelming success. Within three hours of opening reservations for the exclusive dining event, Bertaccini received more than 225 responses.

More »

Stephen Eldridge of Pink Pony: "I Think We're Moving in the Right Direction"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Stephen Eldridge
Executive Chef
Pink Pony
3831 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale /

You can't talk about dining in Old Town Scottsdale without mentioning the Pink Pony. After all, the steak house has been a part of the restaurant scene since for more than 60 years.

You can imagine that means there's a lot of history there, history that for the most part revolves around the restaurant's role as a gathering place during spring training. Over the years the restaurant has served a star-studded laundry list of baseball players. And their fans.

More »

Stephen Jones of Bootleggers: "I'm Just Going to Do the Damn Thing"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Courtesy of Bootleggers
Chef Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones
Executive Chef
Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse

When we met with Stephen Jones late last week, it'd been just over a week since he started his new gig as executive chef of Bootleggers Modern American Kitchen. And in just that short amount of time, he'd already written a new menu and formed some solid ideas about the changes he'll be bringing to the restaurant.

Jones, who came to Phoenix by way of Chicago in 2008, made his name in the local food scene when he opened Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails at Kimpton's Hotel Palomar in 2012. He'd been at a handful of other local restaurants prior, but it was his distinctive take on classic American and Southern cuisine at Blue Hound that propelled him to the forefront of the Valley's culinary scene.

More »

Silvana Salcido Esparza on Barrio Queen: "I'm Proud of What I Did"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza
Silvana Salcido Esparza
Chef, Owner
Barrio Cafe

If you haven't been paying close attention, then the past few weeks may have been a bit confusing in regard to what exactly James Beard Award-nominated chef Silvana Salicido Esparza is and isn't up to these days. So first, let's clear up a few things.

As of mid-August, Esparza no longer is part of Barrio Queen in Scottsdale, which also means she's no longer a part of the second Barrio Queen location that will open in Gilbert. And those plans she had for a fast-casual spot on the west side? Those are shot too. Yes, she did help design a burrito concept for the Arizona Mills Mall food court, but it's not under her control now that it's open.

More »

Matt Zdeb of SumoMaya: "I Don't Want Anyone to Walk Out of Here Unhappy"

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Chef Matt Zdeb of SumoMaya in Scottadale
Matt Zdeb
Executive Chef
SumoMaya Mexican Asian Kitchen

When local restaurant owner German Osio announced his plans to open an ambitious Mexican-Asian restaurant last summer, he immediately made SumoMaya one of 2014's most-anticipated dining spots. Then Osio stoked the fire even more by announcing celebrity-chef Herb Wilson would be heading up the kitchen.

Well, SumoMaya finally opened in June but after just two months Wilson jumped ship to go open another new restaurant in Florida. That left former executive sous chef Matt Zdeb holding the reins to one of Scottsdale's buzz-iest dining spots.

"This is more than I ever could have imagined when I sat down with German," Zdeb says.

More »

Catching Up with Felicia Ruiz of Lola Tapas: Plant-Based Diets and Getting Back to Her Roots

Categories: Chef and Tell

Lauren Saria
Felicia Ruiz
Natural Chef

Recently we've been talking about the local dining spots of former days and our trip down memory lane connected us with chef Felicia Ruiz, who many will know from Lola Tapas. Ruiz ran the well-loved restaurant until June 2010 and when it shuttered, many a Phoenician lost a favorite dining spot.

Fortunately, Ruiz isn't one to dwell on the negative side of life. And her fans will be happy to know she's still very much involved in the food community -- though in a different capacity.

"It allowed me to get back to my roots," Ruiz says of the restaurant's closing.

More »

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.

More »