Home to some of Phoenix’s finest resorts and dining establishments, Arcadia is a food lover’s paradise. To keep our readers abreast of the latest in culinary happenings, the Arcadia News will feature discussions with the area’s many well-known chefs.
We’ll start with Executive Chef Charleen Badman, co-owner of FnB in Old Town Scottsdale. She is also the 2019 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef in the Southwest Region.
How did you get into cooking?
My mother let me bake, and while I was interested in cooking, I didn’t have this great passion. On the contrary, I was 16 and I needed a job in order to buy a car. Where I attended high school in Tucson, they offered a cooking program to train students to get jobs in restaurants.
In high school, I started working at Café Terra Cotta, and when they opened a location in Phoenix, I moved with them. During my time there, I worked my way up from pantry person to chef.
Next, I went to work at Rancho Pinot where I would meet my future business partner Pavle Milic.
I’d been reading about this amazing female chef [Anne Rosenzweig] and her new restaurant. I desperately wanted to work with her, and I knew this was my opportunity. I moved to New York and knocked on her door. She said, ‘We’re really not hiring anyone else, but why don’t you come on Saturday night and see what’s going on’. Obviously, I did, and she hired me that night.
Then, in 2001, we opened Inside restaurant together in the West Village.
After six years, though, I no longer wanted to pay the high New York rent, so I returned to Phoenix. I was back at Rancho Pinot when Milic and I reconnected. We started talking about what it would be like if we had our own restaurant, and voilà, in November 2009, we opened FnB.
What’s it like to be a James Beard Winner?
It’s fantastic! I’ve been nominated before, so it’s wonderful to win. For me, it’s such a great honor to bring the win back to Arizona. FnB is all about showcasing the flavor of Arizona, and I’m tremendously proud of that.
What do you love most about cooking?
I love the creation part. I love concocting new recipes and I’m always eager to take a vegetable or fruit and transform it into a unique entree or dish.
I’m vegetable-driven, and I truly feel people can enjoy them as an entree. In particular, I emphasize and use the bounty of veggies that are grown right here in Arizona.
Sourcing sustainably-raised ingredients is really important to me, so I buy as many local and organic products as possible. I want my purchases to benefit the Arizona economy. My wine, for example, comes from local vineyards.
What is your favorite go-to recipe?
Because FnB’s menu is constantly changing with the season and the availability of fresh ingredients, I don’t have a favorite signature recipe.
Favorite comfort food?
Macaroni and cheese.
What is your favorite 30-minute meal?
Salad. I like the crunchiness of lettuce and the different textures, like fennel.
What are you passionate about outside of the kitchen?
I started the Blue Watermelon Project to work with children to help them develop better eating habits. We teach them that good food comes from the garden. Teaching kids the process of growing, harvesting and cooking their bounty hopefully instills in them a lifetime of healthy eating.