In June, Rebecca Tillman was named executive chef at LON’s at the Hermosa Inn, replacing longtime chef Jeremy Pacheco. Tillman, who for the last three years has served as executive sous chef at The Phoenician, brings years of experience with farm-focused, seasonal cuisine to LON’s. She’s already busy working on new menus, strengthening her kitchen team and putting everything in place behind the scenes.
Q: What’s it like going from such a large property to a smaller, more intimate setting?
It’s incredibly different. My entire career has been at large properties, so to be able to hyper-focus on a few things versus 12 different restaurants, became a challenge for me. I also had to be stretched so far at times that I really wasn’t able to give that one-on-one attention to
(staff) to make sure that we were progressing menus and concepts and people. Part of why I like being a chef is that you really get to groom future chefs and here I’ll be able to (put forth) a more concentrated effort. I think it’s important.
Q: Are you the first female executive chef at The Hermosa Inn?
I am. I have mixed emotions about it. It’s not weird for me because it’s the only thing that I’ve ever done. I’ve always been the first girl for whatever position I was in at any property. It’s kind of cool to think about it as trailblazing, but it also reminds me of how completely divided everything still is. I work hard, so I hope that my efforts pay off.
Q: Was it hard to follow a chef who had been there so long?
Any time I go into a property, I’m usually following someone who has been there a while, so I’m always sensitive to that. You want to make sure that you’re treading lightly on someone’s legacy, but I also want to put my own stamp on things. I have to be positive enough to say this is what I want to do and this is the direction that we need to go with a collaborative effort. I’m sure the next person coming in behind me will probably think the same thing. I always try to leave wherever I go better than when I found it. It’s the right thing to do.
Q: What do you have planned?
The places that I’ve worked tend to be a little more focused on seasonality, but at the end of the day, we just want to have great food. I want to make sure that we’re sourcing things responsibly of course, but are we getting the best chicken that we can possibly get? Are we getting the best tomatoes that we can get? If you have quality ingredients, the food is always going to be great. Every ingredient matters.
Q: Can you give me an example?
When I lived in North Carolina, there was a chicken farm that raised Poulet Rouge Fermier, a French heritage chicken. It’s the only place in the United States that can raise them, so if you’re going to get the best chicken, that’s the chicken to get. I’ve been exposed to a lot of things because I’ve been able to travel and bringing some of those things here is really important.
Q: What about using local vendors?
As much as we want to push Arizona first, we live in a desert, so we can’t be fooled into thinking that we can get everything here. I’ve lived in other states and I’ve been exposed to some really great farms and great products that maybe aren’t as familiar here. People are coming to eat and have great service. If the quality of food is great, they’re not concerned if it comes from a farm five miles down the road or 500 miles away. Great food is great food.
Q: Are you implementing the menu that was in place?
I’ve made a few changes to the menu, but it’s been kind of status quo. In the middle of October we’ll change everything, starting with dinner and make changes from there. We’re going to do a fall menu with some classic dishes, but in a little bit different format.
Q: How will you preserve LON’s legacy?
I’m taking what LON’s has been known for and just elevating it from a flavor perspective. I have to be sensitive to the customers who have an understanding of what LON’s is, but I think at some point we need to move forward a bit. We can have those classic dishes and classic LON’s flair, but I think introducing some new things will propel us into the future. You have to keep things moving along. You can’t be stagnant.