Jason Wyrick: Founder of The Vegan Taste and Vegan Chef

Jason Wyrick, vegan chef and cookbook author and founder of The Vegan Taste, photographed in central Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Jason Wyrick, vegan chef and cookbook author and founder of The Vegan Taste, photographed in central Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero


Jason Wyrick
www.thevegantaste.com

Adopting a vegan diet helped Jason Wyrick lose 100 pounds and reverse his diabetes, while learning about factory farming conditions has kept him passionate about the lifestyle. Wyrick, 42, from Glendale, founded The Vegan Taste, a vegan meal delivery service he runs with his wife, a fellow chef. Wyrick also creates vegan cookbooks, such as his Vegan Tacos, which is one of the world’s most comprehensive taco recipe cookbooks. You can even hire him as a private chef, and he plans international culinary tours.

Wyrick talked about his fervor for veganism and what he offers as a chef, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents, when I was 4. I was born in Houston. My dad’s family all lived in Texas, and my mom’s family all lived in California, and they came to Phoenix because it was right in the middle.

I went to Apollo High School and have a degree in philosophy from Texas Christian University. Continue reading

Michelina DiSibio: Chef and Owner of Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia

Michelina DiSibio, owner of Michelina's Ristorante Costa Campagnia, photographed at her restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michelina DiSibio, owner of Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia, photographed at her restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michelina DiSibio
facebook.com/MichelinasRestaurant

Michelina DiSibio runs one of the tastiest Italian restaurants in the Valley, her namesake Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia. The Italian-born chef, 63, has been cooking since she was a little girl, and now her gorgeous, intimate, fresh flower-filled restaurant is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this upcoming November.

Learn more about her restaurant by watching KAET 8‘s Check, Please! Arizona this Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m. Get to know the Phoenix resident, who is in the kitchen every night the restaurant is open, better here. You can watch a video of DiSibio naming her five favorite reasons for loving living here in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I arrived in the United States in1970 and lived in New Jersey for nine years. I was married and had two children. We came to Arizona in 1979 because we had visited and loved it and wanted to get away from the cold and snow. It’s been great.

I was born in Gesualdo, Italy and came to America when I was 18. My sister was married and living in New Jersey at the time. My dad convinced me to come here because he thought I’d have better opportunities here and didn’t want me to go to school in Italy. I worked in a factory in Newark and learned English within a year. Continue reading

Branden Levine: Executive Chef at Cafe Monarch

Branden Lavine, executive chef at Cafe Monarch in Old Town Scottsdale, photographed at the restaurant, by Nicki Escudero

Branden Levine, executive chef at Cafe Monarch in Old Town Scottsdale, photographed at the restaurant, by Nicki Escudero

Branden Levine
facebook.com/CafeMonarch

It’s a good thing Branden Levine finished second place on the Food Network‘s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell back in September. Instead of moving to Napa, California, the 41-year-old Phoenix resident is whipping up unique, mouthwatering contemporary American specialities at the absolutely gorgeous Cafe Monarch in Old Town Scottsdale. With a three-course prix fixe menu that changes weekly, Levine is able to incorporate organic, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients into every dish, keeping customers coming back for more since he never repeats a menu.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native is gearing up for a Mother’s Day brunch, Sunday, May 11, including seared lobster cake on toasted brioche. The brunch is unique not only because of the holiday, but also because Cafe Monarch is usually only open for dinner. Get more details on the brunch here.

Learn more about what drives Levine’s culinary creativity, and scroll down to watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My wife and I moved out here about a year and a half ago from Virginia. I worked in Washington, D.C., but the restaurant I was working at closed down after about 10 years of being open.

My wife’s brother and his wife are partners with a home healthcare company here, and they offered her a position in marketing. That’s what led us out here. Continue reading

Damon Brasch: Owner/Chef of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami

Damon Brasch, chef/owner of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami in Phoenix, photographed at Green in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Damon Brasch, chef/owner of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami in Phoenix, photographed at Green in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Damon Brasch
twitter.com/greendamon

Local vegans and vegetarians can still enjoy mouthwatering buffalo wings, addictive crab puffs and decadently sweet frozen desserts. Thanks to Green New American Vegetarian and Nami vegan pastry and soft serve, meat- and dairy-filled favorites have been reborn, no animal products required. Since 2006, chef/owner Damon Brasch has brought the Valley his vegan specialties, with Tempe and Phoenix locations of vegan restaurant Green, and vegan dessert/brunch spot Nami in Phoenix, which serves doughnuts and soy soft serve with a variety of mix-ins.

Brasch, a 40-year-old Phoenix resident originally from the Chicago area, is a self-trained chef who whips up tasty daily vegetarian specials at Green, such as fish tacos, and he has a cookbook in the works. He also has a restaurant consulting business, Brasch Concepts. Catch him at the Devoured Phoenix Culinary Festival Sunday, March 2, and read on for more about his journey as a Phoenix leader in vegan cuisine. Plus, scroll down to watch him name five of his favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came to Arizona from the Chicago area with my family because of my dad’s job in 1992. We needed a fresh start, and Arizona seemed like a really great place. We had visited a couple times, and we thought we could start new. We were able to, which is what’s so great about Arizona. Continue reading

Stephen Stromberg: Executive Chef at Sapporo, Triathlete

Stephen Stromberg, executive chef at Sapporo in Scottsdale, photographed at Sapporo by Nicki Escudero

Stephen Stromberg, executive chef at Sapporo in Scottsdale, photographed at Sapporo by Nicki Escudero

Stephen Stromberg
twitter.com/sapporoaz

It’s impossible not to be drawn toward Sapporo in Scottsdale. The fire outside beckons you in, and the tasty sushi inside keeps you coming back. Executive chef Stephen Stromberg is at the helm in the kitchen, shaking up menus twice a year with innovative bites such as the Scottsdale roll, with crab, avocado, spicy scallops, and kaiware; and the Diamondback, with salmon, crab mix and sauteed onions, topped with shrimp.

While diners can expect classic favorites such as tempura, Stromberg’s a health-conscious chef who strives to integrate as much fresh produce as possible into his offerings. The 39-year-old Phoenix resident is a vegan and a triathlete, and worked as an executive chef in Boulder before working at the Valley’s Roy’s, Latitude 30, Pure, and Radio Milano. He’s now been at Sapporo for more than three years, with the restaurant going strong and open for more than 12 years. Check out his special holiday menu the weekend before New Year’s Eve, and read on for Stromberg’s plans in the Valley’s dining scene. Keep scrolling to watch him say his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and my immediate family moved to Colorado when I was 11. I’ve been in the Valley for almost 15 years. My dad had moved out here, and I had come a couple times to visit and liked it. When I came in 1998, I was young and wanted to try it for a year or two – now here I am almost 15 years later. Continue reading

Jacques Qualin: J&G Steakhouse’s Chef de Cuisine

Jacques Qualin, Chef de Cuisine at J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician, photographed at Arcadia Farms Cafe marketplace in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Jacques Qualin, Chef de Cuisine at J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician, photographed at Arcadia Farms Cafe marketplace in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Jacques Qualin
twitter.com/jgsteakhouse

Jacques Qualin has been lauded as one of the Valley’s best chefs at one of Arizona’s most well-known restaurants: J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician. The French-born Qualin, who now lives in Phoenix, insists on the highest quality ingredients, many sourced locally. The 44-year-old is a veteran chef who has been cooking professionally since the age of 16. Read on for what inspires his menus and to watch a video of why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came from New York to open J&G Steakhouse. The parent company was based in New York City, and I came here five years ago. I had never been to the Southwest, so I wanted to see it. I was born in Montbeliard, France and moved to New York in the ’90s. I like the States a lot because living here is very different. Continue reading

Joey Sienicki: Founder of iCook uEat and Private Chef

Joey Sienicki, founder of iCook uEat and private chef, photographed at Salut in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Joey Sienicki, founder of iCook uEat and private chef, photographed at Salut in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Joey Sienicki
twitter.com/icookueataz

Whether you are hosting a meaningful gathering at your home or want to create an extra-special anniversary dinner with your own customized menu, private chef and founder of iCook uEat Joey Sienicki is stellar at making blissful culinary memories with his tasty meals. The 25-year-old Tempe resident calls Phoenix Iron Chef winner Mark Tarbell of Tarbell’s a mentor, and Sienicki has studied in Italy and France and can cook any type of cuisine.

He also loves sharing his knowledge, with a blog that’s a wealth full of mouth-watering recipes. Indeed, his lemon ricotta cheesecake with caramel drizzle will have you craving it for weeks. Read on for what inspires his menu, as well as why he’s proud to be a part of the Arizona culinary scene.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in Phoenix. I went to Arizona School for the Arts for high school — I play piano and trumpet — and got my degree in architecture at ASU, then went to The Arizona Culinary Institute. Continue reading

Gabe Bertaccini: Founder of Il Tocco Food, Culinary Mischief

Gabe Bertaccini, founder of il Tocco Food, photographed at Hillstone Restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Gabe Bertaccini, founder of il Tocco Food, photographed at Hillstone Restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Gabe Bertaccini
twitter.com/IlToccoFood

Local Italian chef Gabe Bertaccini, 27, has made his mark on the Phoenix culinary scene by creating one-of-a-kind dining experiences. He features new menus for each event, including his underground six-course meals, Culinary Mischief, and wine tastings, Bacchus Mischief. The Phoenix resident, originally from Florence, Italy, also does private in-home events everywhere from Los Angeles to New York, under his private dining experience company Il Tocco. Bertaccini started culinary school when he was only 13 and now has dual Bachelor’s degrees in supply chain management and journalism, as well as a Master’s in mass communication. Get excited, because Bertaccini will be opening a new restaurant this year, a small Italian eatery in Central Phoenix, where he’ll be the executive chef. Bertaccini talked about where his passion for the dining experience comes from, as well as five reasons why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came here eight years ago on vacation on a tour of national parks with my family. We did about 13 or 14 national parks in 20 days, so it was nice to come to Phoenix and see a city. I loved it, and I decided to apply to Arizona State University, thinking they wouldn’t get me in anyway. I was working at a restaurant in Florence at the time, and ASU accepted me. Continue reading

Stephen Jones: Executive Chef at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

Stephen Jones
twitter.com/ChefStephenJ

Have a drink or meal at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails at CityScape in downtown Phoenix, and you’re going to leave supremely satisfied. That’s because executive chef Stephen Jones, a 33-year-old Phoenix resident who also helped give the bar and restaurant its cozy feel, whips up an amazing selection of Southern-inspired dishes made with local ingredients that are meant to be shared. Jones helped open the Hotel Palomar restaurant a little more than ago, and it has quickly become one of CityScape’s hottest destinations for both travelers and locals. The former college football player came to Phoenix from Chicago, and he hopes to bring that big-city vibe to the Valley’s dining scene, as well, with plans to open a new restaurant within two years. Get to know Jones better here, and keep reading to hear five of his favorite parts about Valley life.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved here for my fiancee. I had never been here. I was born in New Jersey, raised in California, and moved to Chicago. I’m kind of a weird transplant. Continue reading