chef Archives

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Chef Lee Hillson recently returned to T. Cooks at Royal Palms Resort and Spa as executive chef and he couldn’t be happier. He spent 12 years at the iconic resort in the early 2000s as executive sous chef and then as executive chef. Hillson, a James Beard House featured chef and a participant on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, has also graced the kitchens of The Phoenician Resort and the Sheraton Grand at Wild...

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When the Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix opens on Nov. 26, so will its new restaurant, Poppy, with executive chef Nate Cayer at the helm. Cayer, a recent Chicago transplant, has spent time meeting with local vendors to get a feel for the community and has designed Poppy’s menu with seasonality and shareability in mind. Before moving to Phoenix, Cayer served as executive chef at The Godfrey Hotel in Chicago. We recently caught up with him...

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The dining room at Hearth '61 at Mountain Shadows Resort. Photo by David B. Moore.

Gone are the days of bland continental buffets and dry chicken breasts at your hotel's diner. More and more, talented Valley chefs are decamping from standalone restaurants to helm the kitchens of Phoenix's impressive hotels and resorts. But that's old news to Charles Wiley, who's been churning out impossibly fresh, creative and expertly made food at Valley resort restaurants for years.

With more than 40 years of experience under his belt, Wiley’s list of accolades is impressive: Food & Wine magazine named him one of “The Ten Best New Chefs in America,” and the James Beard Foundation recognized him as “One of the Best Hotel Chefs of America.” He worked for a decade at The Boulders before opening Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in 2001. He went down the road to run the Hotel Valley Ho’s dining program in 2005 and opened the revamped Mountain Shadow Resort’s signature restaurant Hearth ’61 as executive chef and director of food and beverage earlier this year.

PHOENIX recently caught up with Wiley to chat about opening a new restaurant, how the Valley’s culinary landscape has changed since he first arrived, and the current trend of why so many top local chefs are working at hotels.*

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Downtown Phoenix has just added another culinary luminary to its roster: James Beard award-winning Chef Alex Stratta has recently taken over as culinary director at MATCH: Restaurant & Cocktails inside the chic and arty FOUND:RE Hotel.

Stratta’s storied career includes stints at Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician, ALEX and Stratta restaurants inside the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as well as Prado at the Omni Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale. His accomplishments include a coveted two-star rating by the Michelin Guide (three times over, in fact, for his namesake restaurant ALEX in Las Vegas) and Stratta was once named Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef.

First on his to-do list at MATCH is to completely revamp the menu, which skewed to a "global street food" theme (and didn't wow our dining critic). Ahead of Stratta's menu debut in September, PHOENIX caught up with the guy who most recently raised eyebrows by hanging his hat at the respectable but decidedly un-showy and non-James Beard-y The Herb Box.

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"Any time that I'm traveling, I always try to glean as much perspective as I can from other chefs and what they're doing," says Christopher Brugman, chef de cuisine at Hearth '61 at the new Mountain Shadows resort in Paradise Valley.

Visiting his sister in Atlanta last fall, the chef mixed business with pleasure. "[Atlanta has] a really eclectic food scene. There are three [restaurants] that really set it off for me as far as excitement, and thoughtfulness, and playfulness, and uniqueness of represntation of how they dine and how their hospitality is different."

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