Get to know Chef de Cuisine CJ Kahley of the newly opened The Americano in Scottsdale.
How did you get your start in the culinary world?
I was a journalism major and English minor in college in Michigan and then I came to the conclusion that I wanted to travel and document different cultures from around the world. To me, the best way to get to know different cultures was through food and I also had aspirations of becoming a traveling food writer. With no knowledge and no cooking background, I decided to put myself through culinary school the following year. I thought Las Vegas at the time was the place to be because they have every type of restaurant you can imagine and I almost looked to it as sort of a crash course in cuisine. So I put the books on hold and headed west. I graduated and worked up and down the strip from Fleur de Lys (now Fleur) at Mandalay Bay to Bouchon at The Venetian and Michael Mina at Bellagio. When the economy took a hit in 2008, I moved to Arizona and cut my teeth on the Valley food scene at The Mission in Old Town under Chef Matt Carter.
What is the most rewarding part of your career?
I come into work every day with a huge smile on my face because of the people I am allowed to work with. The management staff we’ve compiled to make this place what it is. It has truly been a pleasure to be working here. Also, our ingredients that we are working with are some of the best I’ve seen as of late. All Niman Ranch prime beef and 7X Farms 100 percent domestic Wagyu out of Colorado are some of the highlights. We are also very fortunate to be teamed up with Miyazaki Beef to provide Kobe-style beef from two different cuts. One being a ribeye and the other our New York strip.
What can first-time diners expect from Americano?
A beautiful room and table setting to dine at. Our designers did an amazing job, and we couldn’t be happier to share the experience with our guests the moment they walk through the door.
Can’t-miss dish at Americano:
Our tuna tartare, which is prepared table side, is like nothing you’ve ever had. We meticulously picked and prepared the proper and right amount of ingredients to make this dish sing. From the brininess of the capers to the acidity our shallot conserva provides. Our tallow tonnato is an emulsification of the trimming that we have from our beautiful ahi tuna from Chula Seafood.. So essentially you are dressing tuna with tuna. Makes sense right?
You have been a staple of the Valley culinary scene for years. In what ways have you seen the restaurant realm evolve locally?
Comradely has really been a huge focus for chefs and restaurants. Rather than turning everything into a competition we look to strength in numbers. Local chefs band together to create spectacular dinners for amazing causes and everyone is a winner. It’s great to see that in the community, and I hope that continues to grow.