Last month, Think Tasty readers had the opportunity to choose the best restaurant in the Pacific Hawaii region. With ten wonderful restaurants from which to choose, it was not a simple decision. Many loyal patrons cast their votes and shared their opinions of their favorite restaurants. When voting ended, the restaurant that earned the most votes was Cielo Restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I was able to speak with Comer Smith, who is executive chef at Cielo Restaurant, about this fabulous restaurant.
TT: What makes Cielo unique?
CS: What really makes Cielo unique is the fact that you can get a great meal utilizing local produce that has just been picked hours before. It allows us the opportunity to make it fresh and have an ever changing menu that is fun and exciting. When the cooks and myself are excited about the ingredients we are using, it will reflect in the dishes we prepare. I am a very short distance away from several amazing farms, and it is great being able to talk to and be very hands on with our local farmers. Also being able to prepare technically sound food at an affordable price is a unique quality in our current economy.
TT: On Cielo’s website, you say that you want “no more than 5 flavors on a plate”. Why is that?
CS: The reasoning for only utilizing 5 ingredients is to allow the quality of ingredients to shine. I feel it is about coordinating the dishes like a symphony by steering them in the right direction and building flavor profiles without the ingredients canceling each other out or masking each other, which can happen by using too many ingredients.
TT: In your biography, I noted that you are from Georgia. Do you have southern accents to your dishes?
CS: I am originally from a small island off the coast of Georgia called St. Simons Island. Yes, I do have southern roots in my cooking but having trained all over the world. I love utilizing lots of different ingredients and flavors.
TT: What do you like about being a chef in Scottsdale? What do you dislike?
CS: One of the things I like about living in Scottsdale is the fact that it is a close knit chef community and we are constantly pushing each other and also learning from each other as well. I think the biggest dislike about Scottsdale is the fact we are land locked and do not have the accessibility to the ocean and its many wonderful ingredients that I am used to!
TT: What is your favorite dish on Cielo’s menu?
CS: My favorite dish on Cielo’s menu changes so often it is too hard to keep track. Right now it would be our slow braised pork tortelli with horseradish crema and an apple pavé finished with a carbonated cabernet verjus.