Desert to Dish Chef Chat: Joey Beato of Community Tavern

Joey Beato headshot
In honor of this week’s inaugural Desert to Dish Culinary Weekend–a lineup of dining events including farm-to-table dining experiences, exclusive tours of Arizona farms, and one-of-a-kind interactive opportunities with six renowned chefs from across the country–at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, get to know the event’s participating chefs. Today, meet Joey Beato of Community Tavern & The Portage.
Name:  Joey Beato
Restaurant:  Community Tavern & The Portage
What are you most looking forward to during the Desert to Dish event?  I love working with local farms around Chicago, so the farm visits in Arizona, a place I’m not familiar with, is very exciting.  It’ll be interesting to see what fresh produce is available there and the differences between the Midwest and the southwest in that regard.
Have you always been interested in the culinary arts? How did you get your start?  I’ve always been interested in food and cooking.  I never really liked school that much – I like keeping busy and I’m always on the go, so sitting in a classroom wasn’t my thing.  I decided to try out culinary school, and I really liked that setting and working in kitchens.  It kept me busy and on my feet, and I never looked back.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How would you describe your cooking style?  I have a lot of professional experience with Asian cuisine from early in my career at Spring and more recently at Momofuku Ma Peche in New York.  I also have a natural affinity for those flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques.  You see that clearly with the menu at The Portage.  Aside from that, I just try to achieve balance in my dishes.  Though you’ll often see bold flavors in my food, it’s all about layering flavors, ingredients, textures, etc. to achieve balance.  
What are some ingredients that at-home chefs should experiment with this fall?  Squash sounds like an obvious choice, but it’d be one of my recommendations.  I find that people often hear squash, and they associate that with one flavor or texture or a handful of dishes.  There are so many amazing varieties of squash out there, all with different flavors and textures.  It’s a wonderful and versatile fall ingredient.  I just recently used some local delicata squash on the menu at Community Tavern.  It’s wonderful for at-home chefs because it is a squash that doesn’t require you to cut off the rind.  It has a great texture and flavor.  It’s beautiful, and it’s so much easier to prep than a lot of squash varieties.
Where does your inspiration come from when creating new dishes?  That’s a very difficult question to answer because it constantly changes.  It may come from an ingredient that just came into season.  It may come from a memory I had of a component of a dish I learned or cooked in the past.  It may come from a cookbook I’ve been reading.  It may come from one my cooks.  Sometimes I’ll test out the concept for a dish on my wife when I make dinner at home.  You can pull inspiration from almost anywhere, and sometimes it may not even seem like it’s related to cooking at first.  I might see something that triggers a thought, which festers and eventually forms into a new dish.  
Fast Faves…
Favorite pizza topping:  spinach and shrimp
Favorite midnight snack:  candy…dum dums, hi-chews…
Go-to cocktail:  Fernet branca.  No ice.  
Favorite dessert:  can I say candy again?  I’m not a big dessert person, but I have two close friends who are amazing pastry chefs, and pretty much anything they make blows me away every time.
Favorite holiday dish:  My mom always makes Italian red sauce for Christmas.  Not really a traditional Christmas dish, but I love it and I look forward to it every year.

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