Chef's Extravaganza: Get A Taste Of The Rim Country And Tip Scales For Library

LIVING

Advertisement

The Rim Country's top chefs and cooks are sharing their talents in a Chef's Extravaganza to raise money for the Library Friends of Payson.

"It's not a competition," Barbara Brenke, secretary of the friends program. "It's an informal tasting. Chefs do whatever they want."

A wine tasting will accompany the appetizers and desserts provided by the participants.

"This is a good chance for people to get to know the restaurants in the Rim Country," Brenke said. "We are really happy to see some of the smaller restaurants (participate)."

Join this special celebration of food from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday Feb. 25 at the Tonto Apache Activity Center.

Tickets are $30, advance purchase only, at the Payson Library, 328 N. McLane Road, (928) 474-9260 or at the Payson Roundup, 708 N. Beeline Highway, (928) 474-5251.

All proceeds benefit library projects, including a proposed expansion of the facility.

KEVIN DeWITT, Fargo's Steakhouse

photo

Kevin DeWitt

The origin of Kevin DeWitt's passion for food began in his mother's kitchen.

"The first thing I cooked was spaghetti," DeWitt said. "I had to run back and forth asking her what went in it."

DeWitt, 26, has been in Payson seven years, and at Fargo's for two.

DeWitt said he'll prepare appetizers only -- probably sushi or a scallop dish -- because of the expense.

DeWitt Q&A

What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Chicken and sausage gumbo. My mother makes gumbo for family gatherings -- a favorite for all the kids.

What do you love to eat? Pasta

Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? On my days off from the restaurant, I cook for my family -- usually something that takes all day.

What got you into this business? I attended a high school vocational culinary class, which is where I started my career.

What is your worst chef disaster? Dropping chocolate soufflé right before a plated dinner.

What's the hardest part of your job? Anticipating how many patrons we will serve on any given day. Trying to balance how much food to prepare.

What do you love most about your job? Creating food that makes people want to back time after time.

Tell us one thing about being a chef that people don't know? Being a chef is very hard work, but the reward of happy guests is what keeps us cooking.

Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Taste everything to make sure the flavors are where you want them.

What is your first memory of food? Baking cinnamon rolls with my grandmother. I was about 8 years old.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a chef? You have to have a passion for food.

What challenges or benefits do you face working in a small town like Payson? The benefit of working here is getting to see the same guests time after time.

What is in your refrigerator at home? Fresh vegetables, chicken, eggs, milk. I have two kids, so all the normal things that you would expect from that.

JOSEPH FERREIRA, Zane Grey Steak House

photo

Joseph Ferreira

Joseph Ferreira, a Maine native, has been cooking from one end of the country to the other for more than half his life.

Now 51, Ferreira oversees the kitchen as chef at Kohl's Ranch Zane Grey Steak House.

Ferreira, after quitting his career as hematology technician, needed a job to fill the time as he searched his soul for his passion.

"I never wanted to be a cook," Ferreira said. "I was burnt out. I responded to a ‘Cook wanted, will train,' ad. I thought I'd do that until I figured out what I wanted to do."

And 27 years later, he's still in the kitchen.

Ferreira came to the Rim Country via Colorado six months ago, and he loves cooking steak, pizza and Sicilian food.

He'll contribute a forest cobbler chock full of berries for dessert, but he's still undecided about the appetizer.

Ferreira Q&A

What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Pizza. The combinations are so varied between the sauce and the toppings.

What do you love to eat? Seafood. It's a taste of home. I'm from Massachusetts.

Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? Very much so.

What got you into this business? By accident. I was a hematology tech in a VA hospital. I had the burn-out syndrome. I found a job, "Cook wanted, will train."

What is your worst chef disaster? Cooking a buffet for 125 people and having more than 180 show up.

What's the hardest part of your job? All the hours away from my family.

What do you love most about your job? Making people happy. Good food can make people's hearts sing.

Tell us one thing about being a chef that people don't know? It's an art form. Most people think you just cook and plate, but it is an all-encompassing art form.

Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Patience.

What is your first memory of food? Christmas at my grandmother's house.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a chef? Personally, go old school.

What challenges or benefits do you face working in a small town like Payson? Small-employee base.

What is in your refrigerator at home? Chicken, fruit, ground beef, cornbread, pot of homemade beans.

STEPHEN GROSS, Country Kitchen

photo

Stephen Gross

From Sin City Las Vegas to the Hilton Hotel in Key West, Fla., Stephen Gross' chef skills come from experience.

He learned to cook at McDonald's where he flipped burgers.

"I didn't know what I wanted to be. McDonald's taught me about cleanliness, the basics," Gross said. "That's where I learned my skill."

From there, Gross found his niche as a line cook.

"The first thing I learned how to cook was breakfast," Gross said. "Breakfast is what I really like."

Gross' inspiration comes from his mother and grandmother.

"Her parents lived during the depression," he said. "And she learned to make do."

Gross said he'll bring pizza -- for an appetizer and dessert -- to the Chef's Extravaganza. Gross uses a sweet, creamy sauce as the base and tops it with apples or other fruit -- much like a pie.

Gross Q&A

What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Any dish that has medium-rare steak.

What do you love to eat? Steak, preferably rib eye.

Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? Yes, otherwise I wouldn't have lasted 12 years in the restaurant business -- not to mention (cooking for) six children at home.

What got you into this business? Starting young. I had a natural talent for line cooking.

What is your worst chef disaster? During my first management position, I had to serve and cook for 178 people -- I was the only one working in the restaurant that day.

What's the hardest part of your job? Training employees to all be on the same page.

What do you love most about your job? Making a large restaurant run smoothly and efficiently.

Tell us one thing about being a chef that people don't know? People do not realize the stress factor in running a kitchen.

Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Yes, routine cleanliness and most importantly, excellent presentation.

What is your first memory of food? My mother working her magic, making meals out of nothing, from scratch.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a chef? Be ready for a lot of stress; good people skills are important.

What challenges or benefits do you face working in a small town like Payson? Regulars are a very good thing. Small towns can be like family.

What is in your refrigerator at home? Having six children, a lot of stuff!

GAIL JONES, Cool Pines Cafe

photo

Gail Jones

The Cool Pines Cafe is one of those places where customers order, "the usual."

That's because the restaurant, owned by Gail Jones, has been a Pine staple for 46 years.

"I'm not a chef, I'm a cook," Jones, who works 12 hours most days, said. "A chef is someone who spends a lot of money, my mother taught me."

Jones' late mother, Edna Black, opened the Cool Pines Cafe in 1959, and while her mother worked, Jones cooked breakfast for her siblings.

The Cool Pines Cafe is known for its home-cooked meals. Jones said she'll serve nachos and mini burros for appetizers, and her specialty, bread pudding, for dessert.

Jones Q&A

What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Bread pudding. My mom's favorite recipe.

What do you love to eat? All kinds of chicken.

Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? No. On my day off I go out to eat.

What got you into this business? Took over for my mother ... last 30 years steady.

What is your worst chef disaster? Forgetting to turn the oven on.

What's the hardest part of your job? There is no hard part. I love my job.

What do you love most about your job? My customers.

Tell us one thing about being a cook that people don't know? All the mistakes (you make) until you get the recipe right.

Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Don't give your recipes away.

What is your first memory of food? Times when I was young and opening the refrigerator to find no food.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a cook? You really have to love your job.

What challenges or benefits do you face working in a small town like Pine? Challenges. Lots of eating places; knowing your customers.

What is in your refrigerator at home? Diet Coke; half-gallon of milk; snack food.

See the Friday, Feb. 17 Roundup for additional chef bios for Gerardo Moceri, Cucina Paradiso; Barbara O'Connor, Randall House; and Steve Morken and Tamara Logsdon, Rimside Grill.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.