Meet Our Celebrity Chefs!
Experience live demonstrations and enjoy culinary delights with an educational focus from these top Arizona celebrity chefs!
A classically trained French and Italian chef, Taggia at Kimpton's FireSky Resort & Spa, Executive Chef Massimo De Francesca studied at the Toronto-based George Brown College Culinary Arts School. While there, he traveled to Italy’s Adriatic Coast for an internship with Michelin-starred Chef Vincenzo Cammerucci. Following graduation, he earned experience in a variety of well-respected kitchens including those of world-class French chef, Jean Pierre Challet at the Windsor Arms Hotel and Bouchon Bistro in Toronto, where his team was invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2001 and 2002.
No stranger to the renowned Kimpton culinary team, De Francesca has served as executive chef at three other Kimpton restaurant concepts – Domaso Trattoria Moderna at Hotel Palomar Arlington and most recently at NIOS restaurant at The Muse New York and 70 Park Avenue hotel’s, Silverleaf Tavern, both located in mid-town Manhattan.
When he's not in the kitchen, De Francesca enjoys time with his wife and two dogs, exploring the culinary scene and outdoor recreation in his new hometown.
Executive Chef Anthony Crocenzi - The Venue Scottsdale/K.I.S.S. Restaurant
Executive Chef Anthony Crocenzi has acquired extensive experience in the span of his 15-year career. Working his way up through the ranks of Chicago’s The Signature Room at the 95th Floor of the John Hancock Building, he has held Chef positions at Gioco, Bistro Margot and Cucina Roma. He then took his passion, and Chicago style, to Arizona where he is now Executive Chef at The Venue Scottsdale.
Anthony is a graduate from The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago and is working toward becoming a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation. A designation held by fewer than 2200 worldwide. His culinary background includes Classical French, Italian, Contemporary American and Asian Cuisines.
Corporate R&D (Research and Development) Chef Matthew Janiec - Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1991, Matthew Janiec went on to extern at the Four Season’s Hotel in Chicago, had working stints in Europe, at private Country Clubs and 5 Star restaurants.
Well versed in the industry but looking for more experience, Janiec worked with Brinker International and The Romano’s Macaroni Grill concept for five years, where he helped open over 20 restaurants from Boston to California.
Janiec joined the Z’Tejas team as Executive Chef of their Chandler location in December 2000 and was then promoted to General Manager in April 2008. Janiec has worked with the company for 12 years. Now, with over 20 years experience in the Restaurant and Hospitality industries, Janiec proudly acts as the Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill’s R&D Corporate Chef developing menus and working closely with suppliers .
Executive Chef Admir Alibasic - Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse
Chef Admir Alibasic’s great passion for cooking led him to seek knowledge, learning cooking techniques from former Peter Luger chef Burim Bajrami developing his eye for beef. While in high school, Chef Admir began working as a dishwasher at Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse. Bajrami taught him the proper way to identify how aged the cut was as well as how to prepare it. Over time, he worked his way up through different roles in the kitchen. As his skill set grew, and his confidence and creative ability became apparent, he was named Chef of the restaurant group’s Scottsdale, Arizona location.
Chef Dennis Frazier - Cater Phoenix Modern Catering
Chef Dennis Frazier is a 14 time award winning chef, owner of Cater Phoenix Modern Catering. His long list of awards include:
* 2000 Bronze Medal Recipient, Orlando Culinary Invitational, Orlando Florida
* 2001 Grand Prize, Best in Show "Best Chefs in the West" Culinary Competition, Phoenix, Arizona
* 2001 Silver Medal Recipient, Las Vegas Culinary Challenge, Las Vegas Nevada
* 2002 Gold Medal Recipient, State of Arizona Culinary Challenge, Phoenix, Arizona
* 2002 "Culinarian of the Year" Chefs Association of Greater Phoenix
* 2003 Recipient of 2 Silver Medals, Las Vegas Culinary Challenge, Las Vegas, Nevada
* 2003 Chef of the Year, Chefs Association of Greater Phoenix
* 6 Additional Awards in Local, Regional and National Culinary Events
After leaving the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2003, Chef Dennis worked as a private chef from 2004-2011. He is often considered one of the premier private chefs in the country. He has cooked for professional athletes, A-List celebrities, and distinguished politicians.
In early 2010, Chef Dennis started a "secret supper club" in Phoenix, Arizona under the name "The Culinary Underground." The response was unbelievable. In mid 2011, seeing a real opportunity to differentiate himself from the rest, he resigned as a private chef to form a high end, modern catering company. The company has grown leaps and bounds since its inception. The focus of Cater Phoenix is on innovative, modern cuisine. The food is delicious, whimsical, and at times theatrical. Each menu is a custom creation hand tailored to that particular event. His team is a dedicated group of chefs, servers, and bartenders. The food is often times described as "next level catering". He is continuously pushing the boundaries of what a catering company can and should be.
Chef Eddy Pham - The Great Pho King Food Truck
Chef Eddy grew up in the Phoenix area. One of five children in a Vietnamese family, Eddy shared the responsibility of family cooking. He developed a passion for Vietnamese cuisine throughout his childhood and further refined his chef skills at Le Cordon Bleu, a French culinary institute in Scottsdale. Since graduation, he has held several chef positions around town. During this time he was able to experiment and test different ways to fuse his French cooking skills with traditional Vietnamese dishes.
Last year, Chef Eddy decided to take these recipes to the street and cofounded the The Great Pho King Food Truck. Before the business was able to launch, Chef Eddy nearly died after pneumonia spread to his heart. Chef Eddy has since made a miraculous recovery and attributes a significant part of his recovery to nutritional health. His new found interest in healthy eating has further refined his cooking methods and can be seen in the menu of The Great Pho King Food Truck.
Today, Chef Eddy lives with his girlfriend, his baby daughter and one more on the way in the East Valley. He spends his days touching people’s lives one dish at a time.
Chef Dana developed her passion for cooking in while spending time in her grandma’s kitchen. By college, she was reading more cookbooks than text books and expanding her cooking skills while obtaining her interior design degree.
She eventually put her interior design work on the “back burner” to obtain her professional culinary certification from the accredited SCC in 2006. She has since been a supporter of Scottsdale Community College as a member of the Advisory Board for the Culinary Department.
Dana has taken the path of teaching others how to cook has been a private chef for celebrities and professional athletes. Her wonderful experiences and accomplishments range from giving cooking classes in Arizona and Oregon and also living and teaching in Mexico. .
Currently, Dana owns “Taste Buds,” a personal chef and cooking class business, is one of the Arizona Sub Zero & Wolf chefs, a restaurant menu advisor and is currently working on her first cookbook.
Almira has an interesting background and upbringing that brought her from Tehran to Phoenix with stops along the way in Cleveland, Manhattan, Utah, San Francisco, Sedona and now in Cave Creek, AZ.
Almira Yoel Wagley has entertaining in her blood. Growing up in a home and culture known for their sense of great cuisine, hospitality and entertaining was a great influence in her life. Although, while growing up, she sometimes resented the volume of entertaining that her “bigger than life” Mother did, she grew to miss that important aspect in her life of bringing diverse people together in her home through cooking and entertaining. She started earnestly cooking and entertaining after her beloved mother passed away in a vehicle accident, and proceeding to follow in her footsteps living in Manhattan, Cleveland, San Francisco, Logan, Utah, Sedona and the North Valley of Phoenix.
After a successful career in staffing and career counseling in various cities she took a step back, after 9/11 to evaluate the direction of her life and whether she was happy and decided to focus more in the direction that she loved… cooking and entertaining. Wanting to upgrade her cooking skills she enrolled and studied at Loretta Paganini School of Cooking in Chesterland, Ohio under Loretta Paganini, a Le Cordon Bleu/Paris, graduate and someone who had started her school and was bringing great chefs and teachers to do hands on and demonstration classes to the public years before it became a common practice. She founded OCASI (Ohio Culinary Arts and Sciences), a fully certified cooking program.
As “luck” would have it, her husband, was downsized and they decided to look for work out west. During this journey, Almira visited Sedona and an opportunity presented itself, to buy an existing bed and breakfast that needed TLC and a turn-around expert; a skill Almira had learned while working for other in the business world. Almira went from chef school to owning the Cozy Cactus Bed & Breakfast in the Village of Oak Creek in Sedona. During the six years she was chef, owner, business manager and innkeeper of the Cozy Cactus Bed & Breakfast, she upgraded the food service, customer service, remodled and redecorated the facilty and was able to triple occupancy during that time. She differentiated the Cozy Cactus by not trying to be like everyone else but to be unique. Her mission was to offer a clean, cozy, comfortable lodging facility with great cuisine, concierge and customer service, with easy access to hiking dining shopping and all Sedona has to offer. She served breakfast for up to 14 people daily and hosted many weddings, reunions and food events on the premises. She even brought her teacher, Chef Loretta Paganini, to Sedona and put on an event called “Grilling Under the Tuscan Sun,” which she sold out, serving a 5 course grilled Tuscan dinner on the Cozy Cactus’s terrace in front of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.
In 2009 she moved down to the north valley and started over again, again. Following her interests, Almira has been volunteering, as Career Mentor, for C-CAP AZ, a chapter of Careers through Culinary Arts Program providing scholarship opportunities through competition to Arizona high school culinary students, as well as making some terrific friends and continuing her love of great cuisine and hospitality.