Local Chefs Serve Up Elegant and Unique Dining Experiences

Chef Paul Valenzuela, Lincoln at Camelback Inn

Creative freedom and a flair for simplicity in his dishes are what make chef Paul Venezuela unique in his craft.

“My motto is, if it looks good and tastes good, it should be good, right? That is the standard I teach my staff and that I stand by myself. It’s that easy,” he says.

With a history in banquets and the cruise industry, Paul feels he has found his niche with the Camelback Inn and Marriott in general.  

“I feel it is an honor to live up to brand and hotel. We have a great culture and company. That helps with food creation and preparation because we are all on the same team, and that’s when good things happen.”

Paul has brought a menu to Lincoln at Camelback Inn that makes guests feel comfortable, not intimidated. With delicious ingredients that are universally recognized and appreciated, he feels that keeping customers in mind is the key to success.

“People should know their food and know what they’re ordering. We offer an array of options all made with the freshest ingredients, and we’re good at how we use our purveyors. We know where our seafood and meat comes from, and you’ll taste the quality,” he says.

Paul’s favorite dish at Lincoln is the rib-eye, served with king crab legs, bearnaise and butter. He suggests a lobster baked potato as an accompaniment, which is a loaded baked potato served with 1 1/2 pounds of lobster meat atop. Brussels sprouts are also coming into season, and Lincoln offers a version that blends cherry vinegar and pine nuts with this popular vegetable side.

“Anyone who enjoys meat will love this offering. It is a meal in and of itself,” he says.

5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona, 480.905.7979, Marriott.com

Chef Christopher Gross, Wrigley Mansion 

History should most definitely repeat itself when making the choice to head to the Wrigley Mansion for dinner and ambiance.

“What’s really wonderful about the Wrigley Mansion is the restoration we are completing of this beautiful and historic building. We offer one of the best views in the city, with the largest wine list and a variety of dining options," chef Christopher Gross says.

Christopher was at the Biltmore for 21 years before making his move to the Wrigley Mansion. It was a perfect fit, as renovations have led to impressive kitchen spaces that he notes are "a chef’s dream come true." Between Christopher’s, which will be a tasting menu dining option, and Geordie’s, Christopher believes he can appeal to all tastes and make the evening an experience, not just a meal.

“Our new kitchen at Geordie’s will house a special table that will be available to reserve. You will be able to enjoy your meal while gazing out the picture window. After your meal, you can enjoy a drink from our wine cellar and find retreat on our terrace with a cigar or dessert,” he says.

Christopher is most excited for a dish that pays homage to renowned chef Michel Richard, who recently passed away. The dish mirrors a Kit Kat but is a foie gras dish which is fun and playful, yet savory, not sweet. He often adds root vegetables to give the plated dish a polished look.

“Our fall menu will be created with local farmers. All our meals will be staple-based while incorporating seasonality.”

A visit to the Wrigley Mansion is an experience—the art and architecture coupled with the fantastic food mean seeing Arizona all in one magnificent location.

2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix, Arizona, 602.955.4079,WrigleyMansion.com

Chef Bernie Kantak, The Gladly 

Known both in Arizona and beyond for his unique dishes and fun presentations, chef Bernie Kantak is chef and partner of In Good Spirits, including Citizen Public House and The Gladly. Beyond earning countless local awards and recognition for his talents in Arizona, including winning the 2013 Ripe Award, Bernie has also cooked at the James Beard House and been featured in Bon Appetit and Food & Wine Magazine.

Bernie has been honing his craft since he was a young boy in upstate New York.

“Having grown up in one of the most bountiful areas in the country for vegetables and freshwater fish, with a family whose gatherings revolved around food, it was inevitable that I would grow to love entertaining and cooking,” he says.

After attending Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Bernie rooted himself in the Valley and opened The Gladly in 2013. The concept is creative, with globally inspired New American fare joined with a menu of 200-plus whiskeys, all in a stylish bistro setting.

Perhaps most famous of his dishes is the original chopped salad. It features chopped arugula, smoked salmon, freeze-dried corn, marinated Roma tomatoes, Israeli couscous, black currants, toasted pepitas, ground-aged asiago cheese and a special buttermilk dressing.

Bernie’s salad has amassed such a dedicated following that it now has its own Facebook page.

2201 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, Arizona, 602.759.8132, TheGladly.com

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