“I just have this picture engraved in my memories of making Quiche Lorraine,” recalls Eric Duchene, executive chef at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. “I was at the kitchen counter with my mom, with the flour, cracking the eggs, the sticky fingers, making the dough, rolling it, adding the cheese. And then at the end, when we picked up and ate it, it was very rewarding to make your own food. You enjoy it much more when you make it from scratch.”
In fact, Chef Duchene, who was born and raised in France, grew up in an environment where food was a part of the culture, and where his family members were always making food from scratch.
Today, he is a long way from home. While he began his culinary career in France—from culinary school to working at a Michelin-star restaurant—in 2006 he headed to the Cayman Islands to work for Marriott. From there it was the Ritz-Carlton in Florida and then the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, California, before finding his favorite home yet—at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa.
He joined the team in 2002, craving a bigger environment and more creative challenges.
“The Camelback Inn is a flagship at the company,” he says. “As the executive chef at the resort, I am in charge of all of the restaurants, in-room dining, the catering, and the cafeteria for our staff.”
The resort’s restaurants include Lincoln Steakhouse & Bar, Rita’s Cantina & Bar, Sprouts at the Spa, and Hoppin’ Jacks at the Jackrabbit Pool.
When Chef Duchene began at Camelback, one of his first priorities was to elevate the presentation of the food and the culinary offerings throughout the resort.
“Within about five months after I arrived, I changed every single menu at every outlet,” he says.
Since each restaurant has its own identity, such as Mexican or a steakhouse, he kept several traditional offerings on each menu, as well as introduced new fusions.
“I tried to be more playful and creative,” he says. “I really tried to mix it all up here and there so that people have a different experience at each outlet.”
Working closely with his executive sous chefs and the rest of his team to incorporate their ideas is important.
"I want their ideas and I want them to express themselves because they are the faces of the restaurants,” he says.
There are also many guests who return year after year—some for the past 30 years—as well as Mr. Marriott himself, who stays at the property each year for his birthday, and getting their feedback on the new menus and hearing if they enjoyed the new options was also important.
They were very happy.
He’s also implemented a composting program and now can compost 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of food a month and is working on food waste reduction.
When he’s not working, Chef Duchene likes to take walks with his wife and spend time with his daughter.
The hours for the job—for the career in general—can be crazy, and he shares that his wife’s support was instrumental to him.
“I recognize my wife because I would never be able to be in this position without her support,” he says. “She’s always been an amazing support no matter what, taking care of my daughter almost by herself because I was working very hard. There’s been a lot of sacrifice.”
Still, being a chef was always a calling. It’s a career he loves.
“It’s part of me,” he says. “I just love the energy that there is around the F&B world. I think it’s the lifestyle. I like to be around people, I like to be creative, and I like to partner with people to create things. I don’t see myself doing anything else, It’s just part of me.”
“I tried to be more playful and creative. I really tried to mix it up here and there so that people have a different experience at each outlet," says Chef Duchene.