Food is love.
It is also the chance to learn something new, be it be about an ingredient, flavor, or even the story of its chef.
Each of these chefs here not only ensures each meal under their watch provides an exquisite epicurean adventure, but also teaches diners something special about their origins.
Pornsupak “Cat” Bunnag
Glai Baan roughly means “far from home.”
“Given I am from Thailand, the name is literal,” says co-owner and chef Cat Bannag. “However, the restaurant itself is a converted house, so while far from my technical home, I feel very at home here.”
Bannag grew up in Bangkok.
“I moved to Florida in 2000, where I worked as a server, and met Dan Robinson, a restaurant regular. We fell in love, and I moved to the Valley with the Arizona State alum in 2011,” says Bannag.
Here, she cooked her native cuisine constantly for Robinson and friends.
“Dan and I soon got it in our minds to create a space where Phoenicians could try true, authentic Thai food. Enter Glai Baan in 2017,” says Bannag.
Each dish on the menu – from the kanom jeeb steamed pork dumplings to the peek gai tod chicken wings – are inspired by Bangkok. GlaiBaanAZ.com
The executive chef at Canopy by Hilton Scottsdale Old Town currently heading up Cobre Kitchen + Cocktails, Outrider Rooftop Lounge, and their catering, hails from Saskatchewan, Canada.
“Growing up, I loved being in the kitchen,” says Gaudent. “My mom and dad each had 12 siblings, so cooking for the family was like catering for a small army, and it was a blast.”
After taking professional cooking courses in Vancouver, Gaudet earned a position at Fairmont Banff Springs in the late 1990s.
“Each low season, we traveled to other properties that needed us, and in 2001, the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess came calling. A three-month position turned into a five-year career there,” says Gaudet, who would also earn positions with The Wigwam and Phoenician before moving to Canopy in 2020.
And while there is neither copious maple syrup in his dishes nor poutine on his menus (yet), Gaudet is using his skills to showcase nutritious and healthy takes of full-flavored food—a staple cooking style in Canada—to the masses.
“We also source locally whenever possible, much like we do in my home country,” says Gaudet. Hilton.com
Entering Marcellino Ristorante feels like entering a love story set in the Mediterranean. That is because—in many ways—you are. Co-founder and Executive Chef Marcellino Verzino was born and raised on a farm in the Campania region of Italy. His earliest days were spent in the fields, caring for the animals and enjoying true “farm-to-table” cuisine nightly.
“We lost my mother when I was 12, so I began cooking for my family,” says Verzino.
By 21 he was a personal chef in Rome, leading to positions opening at restaurants across the region, including Calabria, Abruzzo, and even the island of Poros.
“I moved to New York in 1996, and it changed my life,” says Verzino, who not only earned an Award of Excellence from The New York Times for his food, but met his now-wife, Sima.
The couple relocated to Scottsdale in 2003, soon after opening Marcellino Ristorante in Phoenix. Its success led to an expansion and move for the restaurant and couple to Old Town Scottsdale in 2010.
Today, the Verzinos work side by side, with chef in the kitchen and Sima leading the front of the house.
The specialty of the house: Verzino’s own family recipes and dishes he developed during his years leading kitchens across Europe and New York.
“It is my honor to have guests embrace and love who I am and what I create for them,” says Verzino. MarcellinoRistorante.com
In 2021, Dushyant Singh was announced as executive chef of all culinary operations at Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, including Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, Turquoise Pool Bar, in-room dining, and banquets.
“Since joining, I’ve worked with our talented team to create a menu bursting exceptionally bold flavors and focused on globally inspired ingredients,” says Singh, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India.
Singh began cooking in earnest after high school when he took a training course on hospitality.
“The program included time in the kitchen, where it was love at first dish,” says Singh, who in 2002 made his way to the United States to hone his skills.
Upon graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2005, he was recruited by Hyatt Gainey Ranch. He worked there and then at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass before earning his first executive chef position at The Westin in Chicago.
“After three frigid winters, I made my way back via a culinary director role with The Camby, followed by a similar role at Blue Hound Kitchen + Cocktails. During COVID-19, I worked for Fox Restaurant Concepts before finding my new home at Andaz,” he says. AndazScottsdale.com
When celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a fan of your food, you know you are doing something right.
Qualin, a native of the Franche-Comté region of France, was personally chosen by Vongerichten in 2009 to lead J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician.
“I got my start at just 16 near my hometown in France, where I earned a hotel kitchen apprenticeship,” says Qualin, who would soon see his star rise in Paris, cooking under Michelin-rated chef Michel de Matteis and celebrated chef Claude DeLigne before making the move to New York City to work at the famed Le Cirque.
Catching Vongerichten’s attention in New York, it was not long before the two were working together at Vongerichten’s Jean-Georges, a Two Michelin Star AAA Five Diamond French eatery overlooking Central Park.
“After a brief stint overseeing my own concept in upstate New York, Jean-George approached me about moving to the Valley to collaborate on a sophisticated steakhouse using French technique and flavors from around the world,” says Qualin. “How could I pass that up? All these years later, I still love it here.” JGSteakhouseScottsdale.com