Want to know what it takes to be invited to cook for an illustrious culinary event at the James Beard House? First off, your resume must be impressive and include demonstrated excellence in a particular discipline, as seen here by our select chefs who were chosen based on merit to cook a dinner at the famed James Beard House in New York.
Get to know what our chosen chefs are all about and what they label as their guilty food pleasures. Though, they’d likely counter and say ‘if we like it, then we like it’, so there you go!
I’m a Brand Chef for Fox Restaurant Concepts Boutique brands—which include restaurant concepts The Arrogant Butcher, The Greene House, The Henry and Wildflower. Previously, I was the Executive Chef at FRC’s Culinary Dropout and The Henry.
In my new position, I’m responsible for an esteemed team of chefs, as well as all controllable costs; overseeing seasonal menu changes; hiring, training and developing a staff of more than 100; and managing safety and sanitation practices with an extremely high standard, as is to be expected at all FRC properties.
But let’s start back at the beginning: my first notable position was the Chef de Partie at Michaels in the Citadel in Scottsdale. I stayed there for a year and a half before moving to Zinc Bistro, also in Scottsdale, in the same position, for another year. Later, I was named Chef de Cuisine at Bluepoint Grill in Telluride, where I worked for two years before moving up to Sous Chef at Cyrus, a Michelin two-star restaurant in Healdsburg, Calif., where I remained for almost three years. From there, I was named Chef de Partie at the Michelin three-star Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, Calif., where I worked for almost a year before moving to my current position—and back to Arizona.
My functional areas of expertise include team-building, training, quality control and consistency, expense management and guest satisfaction. I have consistently trained to achieve advanced skills in cooking and preparing a wide variety of foods, use of techniques and maintaining excellent standards.
Many would say that I am the mastermind behind many of the inventive cocktails found at Fox Restaurant Concepts. From the bold, creatively named cocktails at Culinary Dropout to the health-conscious, invigorating libations at True Food Kitchen, my spin on cocktails is creating raving and loyal customers across the Valley and beyond. Again, so they say.
I enjoy crafting concoctions that mirror all the great aspects of each restaurant’s brand. I’m committed to using house-made syrups and infusions to get the desired flavor I’m after, which led to the creation of a cocktail that mimicked all the distinct aspects of barbeque. From this, Bells & Whistles was born—a bourbon-based drink permeated with my very own bell pepper-jalapeno-infused simple syrup. With a wide variety of diverse, original cocktails under my belt, I can be found behind the bar molding the next round of exclusive Fox cocktails.
I’m the Pastry Chef for Fox Restaurant Concepts, responsible for overseeing the dessert menus at all restaurants in the FRC portfolio.
For school, I went to Institute of Technology in Rochester. After two years there, I returned to my adopted hometown to attend the Art Institute of Houston, where I studied culinary arts. Following graduation, I worked in various kitchens, jumping comfortably between savory, sweet and mixology—a versatility that would inform my culinary career. I was a Sous Chef at both Rickshaw and Soma and Pastry Chef at Noe, Gravitas and Textile.
In 2010, I worked as pastry chef at David Bull’s Congress in Austin, and then joined Josh Watkin’s team at Carillon a fine dining hotel restaurant in Austin, where I was the executive pastry chef. Along the way, I earned many accolades and opportunities, appearing on “Iron Chef America,” a 2010 Outstanding Pastry Chef nomination from the James Beard Foundation and a 2012 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Award.
Upon my return to the States, a friend who was working at The Henry gave me a call. Cut to now; I’ve recently marked my official one-year anniversary working in The Henry’s Big Kitchen and couldn’t be happier.
When I was 24, I became one of the youngest Sommeliers in Arizona. Racking up Wine Spectator Awards at Fuego restaurant and Hacienda del Sol resort, my accomplishments caught Sam Fox’s attention and in 1999, Fox wooed me over to FRC with the promise of creative freedom in developing and managing the beverage and hospitality programs for all restaurants. My food and wine knowledge is used to create well-balanced wine choices that compliment Cristiano’s cuisine. I create eclectic, diverse and approachable wine lists at all Fox Restaurant Concept restaurants, winning multiple Wine Spectator Awards of Excellences along the way. I developed a demonstrated expertise beyond the wine and beverage realm and today I’m responsible for hospitality programs across all restaurants as well.
“Service is an area where we like to showcase our skill sets and passion for the industry.”
Sam will let his mom and company do to the talking for him!
What Sam’s mom wants you to know:
As the founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts, Sam is the creative visionary behind the wildly successful restaurant group with nearly 50 locations and 15 unique concepts spanning eight states. An eight-time James Beard Award nominee for Restaurateur of the Year, and New York Times best-selling cookbook author, Sam was recently named one of the 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry by Nation’s Restaurant News for the second consecutive year. He sincerely believes in sharing his success by generously giving back to the communities his restaurants serve. Sam has been an avid supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs since the company’s inception in 1998 and recently held the position of honorary chair for the American Heart Association’s 2013 Heart Ball. In addition, Fox Restaurant Concepts supports several non-profit organizations including notMYkid and UMOM New Day Centers.
What Fox Restaurant Concepts wants you to know:
The things that drive Sam are great food, design and hospitality. The master of details, you’re likely to find him snacking on the turkey pastrami sandwich from Culinary Dropout while developing the design plan for one of the several new restaurant concepts he’s launching this year. Sam sincerely believes that every detail matters, from selecting the perfect fabric for furniture on one of his restaurant’s signature patios, to the exact ratio of spirits in a brand new craft cocktail. Today, Fox Restaurant Concepts employs more than 2,700 people with plans for significant and thoughtful growth over the next three years. In his spare time, Sam enjoys time at the beach with his wife and children, sipping on various libations and letting his creative juices flow.
I was born in Danville, California, but I began making my mark in Phoenix dining scene at the first executive chef at Noca. From there, I was introduced to Fox Restaurant Concepts and it was love at first sight. I helped launch the North Italia location in Arcadia where I stayed for two years as an Executive Chef before heading out to Santa Clara, CA to work at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak and Pub for two years as an Executive Chef, as well. I wanted to return back to Phoenix and FRC was so willing to have me back that they created my current position for me—I serve as the Corporate Chef for Fox Restaurant Concepts, developing recipes that will be used throughout the company. I really love the process of transforming ingredients; this became my influence in choosing this as my career path.
I’m a native of Arizona and serve as the Executive Chef for True Food Kitchen, one of the health concepts of Fox Restaurant Concepts. I am a graduate of Arizona Culinary Institute. I’ve spent many years working at restaurants in Southern California, serving as Sous Chef at Cork Restaurant for three years and at BLD restaurant for one year as a chef. I have over 10 years of experience as a professional chef and operator in a variety of cuisine—my biggest passion is for fresh, clean, and honest food!
People always say to do what makes you happy, so I have always worked to achieve a life that allows me to do more than cooking. I began getting into the culinary arts at a very early age. My mom presented me with a new cookbook every week and I began working as a pantry cook at 15 while I still lived at home. Any time I found something interesting in the kitchen, I ran home and researched it like crazy. Once I was introduced to the restaurant business, there was no turning back.
Sam Fox brought me into FRC almost at the beginning—we met in 2002, when Fox had just three restaurants (he now has almost 50) and immediately clicked. I currently serve as FRC’S Vice President of Culinary (aka, Sam Fox’s right-hand “culinary guy”).
My other passions include gardening, motorcycle riding, being outside and on the lakes. I’m also a supporter of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue.
I’m a native from Phoenix, born and raised. I’ve called Fox Restaurant Concepts my culinary home for a decade now. My baptism into the restaurant business dates back to high school, when I took a turn as a busboy at a local high-end restaurant. But even with my hands in soapy water, I couldn’t keep my head out of the kitchen, which looked far more fun. After high school, I accepted a job as a baker at Different Pointe of View, and soon after also took a position as a pastry cook at the Phoenician. Instead of culinary school, I worked and worked … and worked. It paid off.
In 2002, I moved to Chicago to work as lead cook at lavish French restaurant, Tru. While there, I cooked at a couple of events through the James Beard Foundation. Then, Arizona came calling again, and I returned to Different Pointe of View, this time as sous-chef.
I first clocked in at Fox Restaurant Concepts in 2006. Working in The Big Kitchen (FRC’s version of “corporate office”) each day, I was instrumental in helping the head culinary team develop and refine the concept. I now oversee culinary standards for all of the FRC restaurants, contributing to menu and brand development, as well as new store openings.
Be sure to catch all the behind-the-scenes at this year’s James Beard Dinner hosted by Fox Restaurant Concepts! Follow our adventure on our Instagram @foxrestaurantconcepts and check out our menus for the event here and here. For a live streaming of the dinner on June 23rd, visit http://www.jbfkitchencam.org.
For more information on the dinner, visit https://www.jamesbeard.org/.