Bringing awareness to our awesome Phoenix restaurant scene is just one way that we strive to put our dynamic and innovative community on the map. Being part of a local community involves more than just shopping and eating local. It’s about getting to know the faces behind the food and hearing their incredible stories.
In the spirit of bringing our restaurant community into the spotlight, we’ve asked the members of our Devour Phoenix Restaurant Coalition a few questions to get to know them better and hear a bit about their inspiration.
Today we are featuring:
Aric Mei / The Parlor Pizzeria, Owner
Q: What is your favorite food memory?
Every year my family gathers in Wyoming for the holidays. About 5 years ago we started a tradition of cooking a whole suckling porchetta for Christmas Eve dinner. It has become all the things I could want out of Christmas. The whole dinner is a fairly large undertaking. It starts weeks in advance as we search for the best suckling pig we can find and then have to figure out how to get it to Jackson in the days leading up to the 24th. (Last year involved sneaking into the UPS warehouse with a case of IPA as bribery because packages were so backed up from winter storms. Thankfully it worked! )
Next comes the snow shovels and digging out the wood oven, chopping huge amounts of firewood, 2 days of serious prep and planning mixed in with skiing and hot toddies. We always cook the pig in our wood oven but we eat dinner at our good friends house which is about a 5 minute drive. There is that moment when we load everything including the sizzling porchetta into the car and close the doors for the quick drive and the smell becomes so incredible all contained in that tiny space. This is my grown up version of the Christmas morning excitement I used to experience as a kid running down the hallway sliding into the pile of presents. It is always my favorite dinner of the year and perhaps it has become my favorite food memory because it isn’t necessarily relegated to the past. We can make a new one every year.
Q: Which other Phoenix chefs or restaurateurs inspire you and why?
In light of recent election results and surrounding events, It seems that we are at a particularly interesting moment with respect to women. I won’t go into the why, but in the spirit of that I would like to mention a few women that I am constantly inspired by as they kick ass and take names in an industry and landscape typically dominated by men.
Charlene Badman, Chef and owner of FnB. This is hands down our favorite date night spot. Charlene is always using the highest quality ingredients
and in a new scene of abundant “farm to table” restaurant concepts – most of which are just a thin veneer – she really walks the walk.
Lauren Bailey, Owner at Upward Projects. Lauren is one of those rare people with seemingly boundless amounts of good energy. The company that she and her partner Craig have managed to build is really impressive. From the outside, it really seems they understand the importance of company culture in business. Even though they have already built a relatively huge company, I have the feeling that they’re just getting started.
Sarah Chisholm, Executive Pastry Chef for The Phoenix Public Market, St Francis, a large wholesale division and coming soon with 2 more concepts. (DISCLAIMER: She’s also become the love of my life). Sarah has an amazing story. When I met her she was a professional ballerina for Ballet Arizona. Serious injuries forced her to rethink her future and she made a bold decision to shift gears and become a pastry chef. She took all her drive, focus, and passion for the arts and channeled it into a new craft and has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the culinary world. It’s so inspiring to me because it reminds us that we are never stuck in one singular direction. No matter how long we have been going down a particular path, we will forever have the ability to reinvent ourselves if we have the courage to do so.
Lastly, I cannot go without mentioning Alice Butler, Jamie Pace, and Becca Haskin. They are the incredible team that runs all the FOH operations at the Parlor. Their loyalty to the company, and more importantly to each other is a constant source of inspiration for me.
Q: What do you think should be the next food trend in the Phoenix food & dining scene?
I’m not so into trends. I’ll always bet on the long view… the tried and true. It does seem however that these days people want to know more about their food and where it comes from. I could not be happier about this! As individuals, our food decisions will account for our largest personal interaction with the planet. The fact that a lot of people are starting to open up to this idea is really exciting. I don’t see it as a trend so much as a movement…. and hopefully one that is not going away any time soon.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring chef, what would it be?
Don’t forget about hospitality. Making people feel welcome will always win in the end.