Begin Again

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Three Bites Issue: September 2014
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

New chefs = new menus at these storied Valley restaurants.

When the top toque leaves an established restaurant and another chef takes his or her place, it’s only a matter of time before the menu gets a makeover. Consider Gertrude’s at Desert Botanical Garden. Matt Taylor (pictured) inherited the stoves from outgoing Stephen Eldridge in February, but took a few months to survey the landscape. His new menu reflects native foliage (like prickly pears and chiles), but also hews to his personal journey as a cook. He pays homage to his Canadian roots with poutine ($18) and fries draped in gravy goosed up with foie gras, and flaunts a devilishly conspicuous Southern accent (Taylor cooked for celebrity chef John Besh of New Orleans) with iconic ingredients like grits, country ham and collard greens. These typically lowbrow staples get highbrow treatment from Taylor. Case in point: cornmeal-crusted oysters with collard green pistou (pesto) and Tabasco ranch dressing.
1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix

Atlas Bistro
2515 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
The cuisine at this cozy BYOB has always resided on the artistic side of fine dining, and that hasn’t changed since Chris McKinley left to open The Local earlier this year. Instead of a global-flecked American menu, current chef Michael Dei Maggi will debut a more regional American menu when the restaurant reopens after summer break in mid-September. A former Le Bernardin apprentice and former Chef de Cuisine at Monterrey Bay Aquarium, Dei Maggi has created a menu that looks to be wine country-inspired (conveniently, a wine store is next door) with plenty of seafood flourishes.

6106 S. 32nd St., Phoenix
After Greg LaPrad left Quiessence in June of 2013 to open Overland Trout in Southern Arizona, the rustic old farmhouse restaurant remained shuttered for five months before mother/son duo Pat and Dustin Christofolo reopened it. While the essence of the menu is still farm-to-table, the younger Christofolo has transitioned to a more casual, shared-plates menu, with family-style platters and boards meant for the whole table, including a cheeseboard of local and house-made cheeses, bread and jams, and a new “raw” section featuring crudo and carpaccio.