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.
Gerardo Moceri, Cucina Paradiso
Gerardo Moceri, owner of Cucina Paradiso, brings an international cooking experience to the Chef's Extravaganza.
A native of Michigan, Moceri learned his skills and wine expertise from top chefs all over the world.
His apprenticeship began under renowned Chef Angelo Paracucchi who taught him to prepare Italian fare, the same food he serves at Cucina Paradiso.
After overseeing Hawaii's prestigious Hyatt Regency in Kauai, Gerardo moved to Payson's slower pace to raise his family.
What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Chocolate chip cookies with my family. I like to spend time with my family.
What do you love to eat? Ethnic foods: Asian, Indian, Mexican, Greek, etc.
Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? Only when cooking for friends and family.
What got you into this business? I had the opportunity to go overseas and train with Europe's top chefs.
What is your worst chef disaster? In Hawaii going to the beach in a heat cart with 200 lobsters that flipped over. Had to carefully lift them up to save the lobsters.
What's the hardest part of your job? Spending time away from my wife and kids.
What do you love most about your job? Owning my own business. I can set my own hours and I can bring in school groups and share my knowledge.
Tell us one thing about being a chef that people don't know? Long, long hours and lots of surprises.
Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Patience.
What is your first memory of food? Always having Sunday dinner with family.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a chef? Work as an apprentice first before going to culinary school.
What challenges or benefit do you face working in a small town like Payson? Word of mouth.
What is in your refrigerator at home? Yogurt, orange juice, eggs, milk -- basic staple items, and to-go food from the Wok.
Steve Morken and Tamara Logsdon, Rimside Grill
Steve Morken and Tamara Logsdon said "enough" to their aerospace careers at Honeywell in Phoenix, and hello to a new life in Pine.
Although Morken's mother and grandmother imbued him with their cooking skills, he pursued an 18-year stint in the corporate world instead.
"I don't know that (cooking) hit me until I was older," said Morken. "I did a lot of cooking for family and friends for a few years. I played there a few years, experimenting with Italian dishes -- it's a good place to start."
Logsdon and Morken moved to the Rim Country in 2004 to start over.
"We looked at a couple of restaurants, but they didn't serve our needs," Logsdon said. "We wanted something for outdoor stuff -- a place big enough for events."
The duo is still undecided about their Chef's Extravaganza fare.
Morken and Logsdon Q&A
What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Steve: Salmon with dill sauce. Fish is great because there are so many quick, easy options. Tamara: Linguine with clam sauce -- it's simple and delicious.
What do you love to eat? Steve: Italian food. Tamara: Seafood and sushi.
Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? Steve and Tamara: Yes, we have lots of great cooks in our families and we have always loved to cook together.
What got you into this business? Steve and Tamara: Our love of cooking. (We) were ready to get out of Phoenix and always loved Pine. This restaurant had what we wanted and room for large events and parties.
What is your worst chef disaster? Steve: Cooked a butter sauce two hours for a special Oktoberfest meal, and then dropped the pan and had to start over. Tamara: When I first started cooking, I put a glass pan on a hot stove ... it exploded.
What's the hardest part of your job? Steve and Tamara: Making sure everything is timed right (cooked, temperature, and so on) and multi-tasking among customers, employees, cooking, etc.
What do you love most about your job? Steve and Tamara: The interaction with customers and the compliments on our food, events and service.
Tell us one thing about being a cook that people don't know? Steve and Tamara: There's a lot more than cooking involved in being a chef.
Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Never use salted butter in gravies -- it will separate.
What is your first memory of food? Steve: Granny's gingersnaps and mom's homemade breads. Tamara: Pancakes with thick, "syrup butter." Dad always made it for me.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a cook? Steve and Tamara: Work in a restaurant first. Learn all areas from dishwasher, busser, server, line cook, finance, etc. Then decide.
What challenges or benefits do you face working in a small town like Pine? Challenges: Specialty item selection and quality groceries are limited. Benefits: Getting to know customers personally and seeing people we know wherever we go.
What is in your refrigerator at home? Not a lot. We mainly eat at the restaurant -- water, tea, condiments and leftovers.
Barbara O'Connor, Randall House
Barbara O'Connor, owner of the Randall House for the past seven years, started experimenting with food in college.
"Once in month, I'd make dinner for all our friends," she said.
The one-time art gallery manager turned restaurateur prepared chicken and stir-fry dishes for her dinner parties.
"I used to go by recipes exactly," O'Connor said. "Now I use recipes for ideas."
Her food philosophy is simple: Prepare everything from scratch -- it's a passion she learned from her mother and grandmother.
"I enjoy cooking. I enjoy the service industry and I find it satisfying to make people happy through cooking," O'Connor said.
She'll integrate her dessert-making expertise for the Chef's Extravaganza -- mini herbed tarts for appetizers, and sweet tarts for dessert.
What's your favorite dish to cook? Why? Soups -- it's comfort food that people find very satisfying.
What do you love to eat? Pasta and cereal.
Do you enjoy cooking for pleasure? I used to before the restaurant, now there's not enough time.
What got you into this business? I found it very personally satisfying and fulfilling to make people happy with good food.
What is your worst chef disaster? Valentine's Day dinner about five or six years ago. Overbooked and underprepared -- a nightmare.
What's the hardest part of your job? Filling so many different shoes. Prepping, cooking, planning, getting to know our customers while still running a business.
What do you love most about your job? When people are happy because they got a good meal.
Tell us one thing about being a chef that people don't know? Be nice to the entire staff, they're all working toward serving you.
Is there a trade secret that every person who cooks should know? Use good quality, fresh ingredients and prepare ahead what you can.
What is your first memory of food? Whenever there was a family gathering, there was always plenty of food. Any event included at least several dinners and a brunch.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a chef? Get creative and experiment. If you don't like how something turns out then keep trying.
What challenges or benefits do you face working in a small town like Pine? Business is seasonal -- half in the winter, double in the summer. A small pool of help ... it's hard to find good staff (although we have some awesome teens who work here).
What is in your refrigerator at home? Fresh fruit, juice, yogurt, veggies, lemons, butter (no margarine), soymilk, homegrown garlic and frozen pizza.
See the Friday, Feb. 10 Roundup for previous chef bios for Kevin DeWitt, Fargo's Steakhouse; Joseph Ferreira, Zane Grey Steak House; Stephen Gross, Country Kitchen; and Gail Jones, Cool Pines Cafe.