Chef Chat: Dustin Christofolo of The House at Secret Garden and Quiessence

chef chat justin
Get to know Chef Dustin Christofolo of The House at Secret Garden and—most recently—Quiessence in Phoenix.
Have you always been passionate about the culinary arts? I’ve always been passionate and adventurous about great food since I can remember. I became passionate about cooking when I started working at The Farm at South Mountain when I was 23. The Farm is where I started to truly appreciate our local growers and how their fresh foods could be incorporated creatively into our everyday menus.
With ever-changing menus at The House at Secret Garden and Quiessence, how do you keep inspired? The local and seasonal availability keeps me inspired and challenged. I think it’s my personality that’s always looking for something new. Even when we have a staple dish on the menu, I am always looking at different ways to present it or add an ingredient to change it up.
What is the key to cooking with farm-fresh ingredients? Keep it simple and delicious. Build layers of flavors that allow the taste of the local and seasonal ingredients to come through. Focus on complimenting the freshness and authenticity of the ingredient.
What fresh ingredients should at-home chefs experiment with this season? Peppers, chilies, cilantro, radishes, carrots, eggplant and basil. My favorite use of the eggplant is grilled as a salad with some basil pesto and Black Mesa Ranch Goat Cheese. Think creatively to add the ingredients, like the basil and the peppers, into your homemade cocktails as well.
Breakfast cereal: Frosted Mini Wheats
Pizza topping: Wild mushrooms, arugula, fontina and garlic

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