Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot

Written by Geri Koeppel Category: People Issue: August 2011

Robertson eschews “silly, trendy” cuisine for skillfully prepared basics with quality ingredients. She and partner Russ Gwilliam raise hens for eggs that they use in the restaurant, and she grows an extensive herb garden.

You credit your Italian background for your love of food.
My mom’s parents were immigrants from Italy. My grandfather moved out here and retired in the ’50s. He built houses, so he built a house for himself and a house next door where my aunt and uncle and cousins lived, and we lived across the alley. We had Sunday family dinners and all of the Italian food-mania that goes with that.

Why aren’t there a lot of high-caliber female chefs in this town?
I wish I knew. Cooking – “chefing” – has been, for a long time, a boys’ club…. It’s hard work and it’s not glamorous. You have to be willing to do a lot of hard, difficult work. I’ve had a great work ethic from my family, so I’ve always worked hard.

Kevin Binkley says your restaurant is one of his favorites. Do you like his?
I’d better say yes! Of course I like his restaurant. It’s so different from what I do. We’re always ribbing each other – kind of a brother-sister thing. He’s great. His patience to do all the elaborate stuff he does with food – we’re pretty opposite in our cooking styles.

You offer wine on tap. How have people responded to that?
Great response. It’s fresh, it’s sound. It’s temperature-controlled; one side for red, one for white. I have special tubing from Europe, which is impervious. A lot of places use beer systems and you still have that problem of oxidation. Jim Neal of N2 Wines got beautiful custom taps made for us. It doesn’t come out of a beer tap. There are no bottles, none of that waste – Scottsdale does not have a recycling program [for businesses]. It’s crazy.

When you started Slow Food here, what was the food scene like at the time?
There certainly weren’t as many restaurants focused on what people are calling the farm-to-table thing, but there was a real interest in organics and locally grown…. It was when there were a lot more farms coming out and farmers’ markets. It was sort of the beginning of everything.

So do you think having a Slow Food consortium here moved that along?
It definitely brought more awareness to the whole scene. I don’t know what’s the chicken and what’s the egg.

Chrysa Robertson
Owner/Chef, Rancho Pinot

6300 N. Scottsdale Road, Ste. 101
Paradise Valley, 480-367-8030