Local Chefs Lead Culinary Adventures

By local contributor
Susan Lanier Graham

Foodies are in for a treat with chef-led dining experiences in Scottsdale, which abound throughout the city. I love chatting with chefs and getting to know about their food passions. Here are a few of my favorite chef-led culinary adventures.

POSH Improvisational Cuisine

POSH in downtown Scottsdale is one of the city’s hidden gems. Located on the ground floor at Optima next to Scottsdale Fashion Square, Chef Joshua Hebert and his staff create your dinner based on what is seasonal, what is available, and what you like without any set menu. Every course is a complete surprise, based on your selections.

We arrived early—there’s a discount for diners seated before 5:30 pm—and sat where we could watch the kitchen action and chat with the culinary team. After letting Chef know what we like and don’t like, we selected the five-course option paired with wine. Then our adventure began.

POSH served up soft shell crab in a silky curry and coconut milk broth. The crab was deep fried to perfection and the broth reminiscent of flavors I fell in love with in Thailand. My favorite course of the evening started with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, which is from the Avignon area of France I visited a few months ago. It was the perfect accompaniment to my best bite of the evening – in fact, one of my best bites ever – buffalo oxtail served with fresh raspberries.

POSH Restaurant is open for Ramen Night every Tuesday and for Improvisational Dining Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Deseo at Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

Another great spot is at deseo at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, where you can sit at “The Rail” and watch the chefs in action. Deseo, which means desire in Spanish, offers its Epicurean Experience every Thursday night featuring the restaurant’s fresh, flavorful “Nuevo Latino” cuisine.

The culinary adventure begins as Chef Derek Biazo and his team demonstrate two of the restaurant’s signature ceviche dishes paired with a mojito. After the ceviche, you begin your three-course dinner paired with South American wines. During dinner, the chef and his team answer questions about the food.

Some of my favorite dishes of the night included the ceviche served with liquid nitrogen popcorn. The cold crunchy popcorn was perfect with the soft, citrusy fish. The ceviches, as with most food at deseo, is elegant yet simple.

The Epicurean Experience is $75 per person for the ceviche, muddled drink, three courses and wine pairings.

Sushi Roku

Sushi Roku, located in the W Scottsdale, serves contemporary sushi along with dishes that blend Asian and international flavors. With such a diverse menu, the best way to experience it is by enjoying the Omakase dinner. Omakase, from the Japanese word meaning “I’ll leave it up to you,” does exactly that—leaves the menu up to the chef.

No two experiences are the same, but it is sure to be a memorable meal. My favorite dish was Fluke Kumquat Sashimi served with yuzu vinaigrette. The flavors are so fresh and clean and the bit of tartness with the yuzu spotlights the delicate fish. The evening included delicious steamed shrimp dumplings and a sushi platter and concluded with a play on s’mores, complete with a tabletop fire pot, where we roasted our own marshmallows.

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

Chef Michael Cairns and his team at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia host exclusive interactive dinners known as the Chef’s Kitchen Dinners. Kitchen Dinners showcase a visiting winemaker or distiller and take place in a space Chef Cairns created to make people feel as if they’re dining with friends. I love the outdoor patio surrounded by Chef’s hand-cultivated herb gardens and even a rose bush from his old family farm. The interior space is just as comfortable and personal, filled with mementos from his lifetime of culinary travels and a pegboard—painted blue—just like the one Julia Child had in her kitchen.

During Kitchen Dinners, diners watch Chef prepare the meal in the open kitchen, each carefully choreographed to compliment the visiting winemaker’s or distiller’s selections and served family style.

ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho

Another fun chef-led eating adventure is at ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho in downtown Scottsdale. Chef Charles Wiley features a monthly Monday Night Chef’s Table with wine pairings and a monthly Brew Master Dinner Series with beer pairings. Both start with passed appetizers and a drink. You’ll have a chance to meet the winemaker or beer maker before tasting four courses of Chef Wiley’s food paired with the featured wines or beers.

I have enjoyed both wine and beer dinners and love discovering the unique passions of the men and women who work to create amazing flavors. A true epicurean delight.