An unseasonably cool Winter day in Phoenix is a fine thing. Sitting down to the chef’s tasting menu at Beckett’s Table, now that’s just spoiling me. I learned about Beckett’s Table through word from a friend whose opinion I respect in all matters of the foodie’s heart. I experienced all the great things that Arizona wines have to offer, as well as owner/chef Justin Beckett’s innovative New American cuisine. This restaurant could easily be transplanted in a major city such as LA or NYC, and I’m not kidding when I say that I forgot I was in Phoenix a few times throughout my dinner. Then again, Phoenix has been getting a lot of press in recent years for coming up well in the culinary scene. It’s a great thing when local talent keep their work for residents in smaller cities rather than giving away more talent to cities that already have it. I was thoroughly impressed with the wine and the seasonally appropriate dishes. I had the opportunity to chat with chef Beckett whose passion for food and wine is beautifully apparent.
The Gone Cat: Tell us briefly about your background in the restaurant business:
Justin Beckett: I grew up in the industry, I have been cooking in restaurants since I was in 8th grade, After going to culinary school in San Francisco and working in Pebble Beach I moved to Arizona where I open Roy’s Pacific Rim Restaurant. After seven years with them I moved on to Steamers, Hotel Valley Ho, Canal, Estate House, Food Bar and Metro Brasserie. In 2010 I opened my first restaurant named Beckett’s Table and 3 years later I opened Southern Rail.
GC: How do you feel the restaurant scene has changed in Phoenix over the past 10 years?
JB: Dramatically! This town has really blown up (in a good way) when it comes to dining. Young chefs have taken the leap out of hotels and corporate chains to open their own independent eateries. It has been a joy being part of this renaissance and working with my fellow chefs and restaurant-eurs to build up the food scene in Arizona. The birth and explosion of the Arizona’s wine growing region is an incredible compliment to what we are trying to do with the food as well.
GC: What are some of the great things that you feel Arizona has to offer in the wine & food arena?
JB: I truly believe that Arizona is going to continue to turn heads when it comes to wine growing regions. Our climate, soil and latitude supply some incredible circumstances to grow great wine grapes. It is hard to pick out a bottle of bad Arizona wine right now. I also think the talent in this town chef wise is as high as it has ever been. My peers are killing it and I looking forward to the recognition that these hard working chefs in Arizona deserve.
GC: What’s the concept behind Beckett’s Table?
JB: Beckett’s Table is a humble eatery when comfort food meet upscale cooking techniques, an impressive wine cellar from all over the world. Our mission was simple… Throw a dinner party every night and entertain people with non pretentious 5 star food, beverage and service at a 3 star price.
GC: What are some regional cuisines that you are influenced by as a chef?
JB: I think most my roots come from french cooking and techniques. I will say thought that I crave Italian and Mexican almost daily. I do not say that I cook one thing or the other but I am inspired by nations and cuisine from all over this planet.
JC: If you could throw a dinner party for any 3 people in the world (past/present/fictional or real) who would you choose?
GC: I would like to cook for my kids 20 years from now, I’m very eager to see who they become. My grandmother who taught me to love food from her garden. My dad who I have never met.
JC: Tell us your favorite dish on the upcoming Spring seasonal menu and which wine would you pair it with?
GC: Our local farmer here in town produces some of the best sugar snap peas that we have paired with blood oranges and smoked corn. This pairs great with an Arizona wine, Sand Reckoner “W” (a Viognier blend).