This post was provided by CC member Chef John Sharpe, chef/owner of The Turquoise Room in Winslow, AZ.

Talking the talk – walking the walk! Which one are you?

Chef John Sharpe, The Turquoise Room

This question popped into my head after while ruminating on the challenges I have had recruiting a Chef des Cuisine for my restaurant.

I wonder if any of you can relate to this.

So you are asking, well who is this guy? I have been cooking since I was 15, starting my apprenticeship and catering school in Harrogate, England in the early 60s. Yes, I have been around a while. I will not bore you with my story.

In the winter of 2000 I arrived in Winslow, Arizona which is some 160 miles north of Phoenix and 65 miles east of Flagstaff in the high desert lands of Northern Arizona. We came to open a fine dining destination restaurant in the historic La Posada Hotel. We are still here 13 years later with a staff of 40 operating every day from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm! We survived 9/11 and the economic downturn of the past few years – we keep on trucking!

So back to the question.

In the course of my ongoing search for a Chef de Cuisine I have learned that everyone is neither who they seem to be, or who they think they are! Sound familiar?

I have struggled over the past 13 years to bring the local bounty to my guests. Hauling organic produce from Bob McClendon’s Farm in Peoria some 180 miles away almost every week during the winter months. Churro lambs raised for me on the Navajo reservation require me to drive 11 hours round-trip to pick them up at the processor in Durango.  Our local farmers market in Flagstaff is every Sunday morning at 8:00 am during the summer. I have had chefs come once or twice with me to the market, but the novelty wears off very fast. Oh get up at 6:00 am to leave at 7:00 on a Sunday; I think not, church is a-calling – yeah sure.

You get the picture. Then comes the inevitable question when I return with my refrigerated van loaded up with fresh veggies, fruits, foraged mushrooms, wild greens and so on. That looks nice, what is it? What do we do with this stuff? Oh you are changing the menu again; I thought you just did that on Thursday!

That is the fun and inspirational part of what I do on a weekly basis. It’s not the same as writing a menu and making up an order list to call in every day month in month out.

Sadly they do not “get it.” I have yet to find a chef that can embrace and appreciate what the challenge offers doing business like this. I am always so excited to see what’s on the market. It is the stuff that food dreams are made of. It gets my juices flowing early on a Sunday morning after a busy week. Looking to the week ahead and searching for the spark to light up the menu. So many choices, so many ideas to sort through I don’t know where to stop. Always know where to start but then there always seem more goodies available than I can work with.

Always wanting to do more, remembering just how much “talent” I have on the team. Coming back down to earth so as to create a new dish or two and at same time staying in the now and knowing what we can accomplish with the players on the team. Knowing where to set the bar so they can get over it and feel good, rather than stressing them out and setting them up to fail.

Can you relate?

I am looking forward to my trip to Charleston and spending some time with chefs who can relate to what I do every week. Maybe we can swap success stories and maybe the occasional horror story – after all it will be just after Halloween!

Just another day in Paradise!

John Sharpe
Chef /Owner
The Turquoise Room at La Posada, Winslow, Arizona

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