By the time it became clear that I was in Phoenix for at least long enough that it required me to get a job, all of a sudden I found myself with three…
Aside from private chef work and my jewelry biz, I had begun working for my long time friend and former boss Justin Beckett at his new restaurant aptly named Beckett’s Table. He and his wife Michelle and friends Katie and Scott Stevens had opened this little neighborhood joint about six months before. He was down a few hands in the kitchen and needed some part time help. Beckett and crew serve up classy comfort food in an approachable and affordable way while still maintaining an interest in local, organic and hand selected products.

Organic Heirloom Tomatoes for wine dinner ~ Photo taken by Justin Beckett

What a blessing it was to get my hands on some quality ingredients in a environment that was fun and committed to soulful food and interesting wine. I will not fail to mention that when I met Justin he was a vegetarian from hippy decent clawing his way to the top of the Phoenix restaurant scene. He has since abandoned the vegetarian and the hippy but he cooks his meat (keep your minds out of the gutter people) with such commitment and style that even I who at the time was eating pretty much zero meat, would be forced to nibble at a short rib or a bacon and cheddar biscuit on occasion.

Phoenix farmer Bob McClendon showing Justin and crew the bountiful organic tomato harvest.

Rhubarb and ricotta mousse, thyme tuille ~ Photo taken by Justin Beckett

Justin is like many chefs these days. He can be seen weekly at the local farmers markets selecting only the best of the harvest to lovingly create the caliber of food that we so desperately need. He has he traded much of his valuable time with his family not only because he is committed to his craft but also because this is not a business you can hire someone to do for you, especially if your name is on the door. It is also not the business where you make cash hand over fist. Especially in this climate where the cost of quality ingredients are skyrocketing and the menu has to be affordable or you will not fill you dining room. If you have a love affair with food, you happen to own your own place and you want to do something special; your life is the restaurant. If your lucky as Beckett is, you have a few warrior cooks in you kitchen who battle it out with you 6 nights a week getting consistently kicked in the teeth when the dining room get sat all at once and you have a wine dinner for 36 about to have salads. These culinary mercenaries (as I believe my friend Tony Bourdain calls them) work long hours and late nights for the small change that you get in this biz and thankfully they keep comin’ back for more. Blessed are these dedicated souls as it takes a rare breed.  So pay attention folks, next time you go out to eat choose wisely…avoid the chains and patronize the indie places, and when you go to leave a tip make your way back to the kitchen and slip them a $20 cause lord knows they could use a beer.