jose hernandez @ coup des tartes
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Jose Hernandez @ Coup des Tartes
February, 2011, Page 154
Photo by Richard Maack
BACK OF THE HOUSE
Executive Chef, Coup des Tartes
4626 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Coup des Tartes is one of the Valley’s most romantic restaurants, with its intimate ambience in a 1933 farmhouse and its famous dessert tarts.
José Hernandez has been the executive chef there for nine years, creating sumptuous meals and special memories for diners. Each Valentine’s Day he comes up with a prix fixe menu based on aphrodisiac foods. Dishes might include caviar, chocolate – even asparagus.
The native of Guanajuato, Mexico, says he started in the restaurant business “by accident.” Hernandez had a job in construction, and a friend working at Coup des Tartes called him on a busy Mother’s Day in 1998 when the dishwasher didn’t show up. From there, he began helping the chef with prep work and filled in as a line cook.
Hernandez proved to be a natural talent, knowing instinctively how to combine flavors. An improvisational dish he made for himself one night – “José Pasta” – was so good it landed on the menu.
When the head chef left, the restaurant’s former owner promoted Hernandez. Ron and Katie Pacioni (whose surname is Italian for “passion”) bought Coup des Tartes in 2007, and they and the staff work with Hernandez to come up with all of the menu items. Remember to bring your own wine: This is the Valley’s oldest BYOB.
How far ahead do you start planning the Valentine’s Day menu?
After New Year’s. Maybe a month or so (in advance). It takes like a week to work with it. I take opinions from everyone.
How early does the restaurant book up for Valentine’s Day weekend?
Right after New Year’s. Sometimes they start calling in December. We do over 100 customers every day. We’re going to do Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday (February 11-14) for the Valentine’s Day menu. Last year we had Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Do you have a special someone in your life?
Not right now. I haven’t been married yet.
So you’re an eligible bachelor?
If you met someone special and wanted to cook her a romantic meal, what would it be?
I love lobster tail, and I have a pasta we make – pappardelle – and I learned to make a very good sauce from the tails of the lobster. I cook them with thyme, garlic, carrots, celery and tomato paste. When the tail turns brown, after that, I put in a little bit of cream. From the tails come oil, and my sauce comes from there. It’s my favorite plate ever here. It’s so light. There’s very little cream in the sauce. And I put the lobster tail on top.
If someone were going to cook you a romantic meal, what would you want to eat?
I love filet with garlic mashed potatoes. With the filet, I like herb butter. You can put any type of herb, like rosemary, tarragon, thyme. You put it in the freezer and cut slices. I like to have that on top of my filet. I like to have asparagus, too, as my vegetable.
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