AZ Wine & Dine Chef Chat: Mel Mecinas

MelMecinas_Talavera

In preparation of next Thursday’s fifth-annual AZ Wine & Dine event, an upscale celebration of the region’s top resort restaurants taking place from 5 to 8 p.m. at Scottsdale Quarter, get to know a few of the participating chefs. First up, Meliton “Mel” Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale who was just named Chef of the Year by the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame.

Restaurant name: Talavera & Proof Canteen

Resort name: Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

What are your favorite resort restaurants, in the Valley and otherwise? Prado at the Omni – some good drinks and light tapas by my good friend, Chef Michael Cairns.

When people are choosing a vacation or staycation destination, how do you think the resort’s restaurant factor into their plans? When choosing a vacation destination, guests are increasingly looking for a location where there are multiple options that offer a wide range of culinary experiences. Guests do not want to have to leave the property multiple times just to get a great foodie experience. Last year, Phoenix Magazine nominated our resort as the Best Foodie Staycation – and for good reason – at Four Seasons Resort, we have multiple restaurant concepts so guests can have a different dining and culinary experience each night with the added luxury of Four Seasons service and execution. Our culinary team works hard to provide a customized and personalized experience for each and every guest in every one of our restaurants.

Many hotels are focusing packages on food adventures. Why is this so popular? Food has become a focal point in vacations. There is a desire for a new culinary experience – rather than just another meal. When people travel to new places, they are looking to be immersed in the regional cuisine and to eat like a local – and that desire has lent itself to these new “food adventures.” There is nothing more authentic than learning about, tasting and smelling the culinary heritage of an area and enjoying local specialties.  People are tired of just seeing the sights and staying within their comfort zone – they want an adventure with a foodie twist! As a chef, there is nothing more exciting than taking guests on new food adventures and spreading the joy of food and beverage!

Many incredible chefs got their start at a hotel restaurant. Why are hotels such a breeding ground for talent? Working in a resort or hotel kitchen, you gain global knowledge. You don’t just learn one type or style – you are under the guidance of a team of chefs and have the opportunity to be in the many resort kitchens. You might work in a restaurant one month and then find yourself preparing a banquet dinner for a wedding of 350 people the next. At Four Seasons, for example, we have the homestyle comfort food in Proof, upscale steakhouse in Talavera, light southwestern spa cuisine at the pool, and almost any cuisine you can think of in our banquet kitchen. Mix in stints across all meal periods and room service, cooks and chefs will find that they are ready for anything and have greatly increased their confidence in the kitchen. Additionally, the large kitchen staff in a hotel or resort makes for a great breeding ground for healthy competition. Many chefs are inherently competitive – they are constantly judging themselves against the cook next to them on the line – and competition brings out the best in everyone.

What are your hopes for resort restaurants in the future? My hope is to no longer be categorized as “resort restaurants” – at each of our restaurants here at the resort, we strive to be known as an independent restaurant. We have created independent concepts, menus and designs just like any other free standing restaurant – and we are open to the public. We are proud to be part of the incredible Scottsdale food scene and always strive to deliver the same, if not a better, foodie experience. Many hotels and resorts, especially within the Four Seasons portfolio, no longer have the old school “dining rooms” where we serve continental breakfast, soup and salad for lunch and spaghetti for dinner. We have concepts that set the standard in many local restaurant scenes and I would hope that we continue to be top competition among all restaurants.

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