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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Local Chef Nominated for James Beard Award


Chef Gregory LaPrad sounds a little like an Academy Award Nominee.

“I never thought I would be nominated. It is a huge honor to be recognized,” he said.

In reality, the honor of being nominated as Rising Star Chef under 30 by the James Beard Foundation is a sort of “The Oscars” for chefs nationwide.

“It’s very exciting. It was something I never expected to really seek to expect. It’s something that is out there, but you really don’t think about it. You just do what you do and do the best you can. I never expected them to recognize us out here,” said LaPrad, 28, the executive chef of Quiessence at The Farm at South Mountain.
Chef Gregory LaPrad sounds a little like an Academy Award Nominee.

LaPrad was in a field of 27,000 nominees nationwide that have been narrowed down to a semi-final list of 30 in each category. In mid-March the field will be narrowed to five chefs in his category. If chosen the winner, there will be a ceremony in New York.

It may seem that LaPrad’s star has risen quickly, but he is not an overnight success. Although he began work at Quiessence in 2005, took over as chef in 2006 and in 2008, took over the restaurant completely, he has worked in the industry for years.

“I’ve been cooking since I was 12 or 13,” said the Connecticut native. “My first job was as a dish washer, then a prep cook. I worked my way up the ladder.”

His formal training was at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI.

“I did well in school, but I still believe you learn most on the job day-to-day,” added LaPrad, who spent time in Italy, working in Tuscany. “It was a really cool experience. You pick up a lot along the way.”

LaPrad said he is appreciates the success of Quiessence.

“I am happy that people venture to South Mountain to try it. There is not much like us around and we stand out down here. It is one of the most unique environments in Phoenix,” he said.
The Farm at South Mountain is 10 acres of tranquility where people can shop for fresh produce and flowers at Maya’s, a working organic farm, have breakfast at Morning Glory or lunch at the Farm Kitchen all in a grove of Pecan trees. The fine-dining at Quiessence is a very special experience.

“Rustic and back to the roots,“ is the way he describes his cooking style.

“We don’t have a lot of fancy equipment. We do pretty much everything by hand. Bread is made by hand and baked in a brick oven.“ He said the menu is based on what is in season.

He was invited last July to cook a meal at the James Beard House in New York.

“Basically someone nominated us to cook at the James Beard House. They have a wide membership across the country. Somehow we got on someone’s radar who brought us up to the committee,” he said.

He said the officials make it very clear to the chef that the nominating process and being asked to cook are two different committees, so cooking there has no bearing on a nomination for the award.

James Beard was a chef and author who many believe was the father of American-Style gourmet cooking. He wrote 20 books and taught cooking.

The Farm at South Mountain, which also has an artists studio and a massage therapist, is at 6106 S. 32nd Street in Phoenix.

To learn more about Quiessence or The Farm at South Mountain call 602-276-6360 or visitwww.thefarmatsouthmountain.com


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