‘Check, Please! Arizona’ dishes up season 8
Dec. 1, 2017
The eighth season of “Check, Please! Arizona” begins Jan. 4, 2018, at 7 p.m. Meet a few of the great local restaurants you’ll see this year and hear a little about their “Check, Please!” experience in their own words.
“After two years and 78 restaurants, I’ve been blown away by the passion, variety and sheer number of wonderful chefs and restaurateurs in Arizona. I moved here in 1986 when it was a different scene. We can now stand with the best of food cities. The thing that I’ve been most surprised to see is that amazing foods from around the world are here in our home. Greek, Ethiopian, vegan, Veggie, Thai, Korean, Indian. … If you’re looking for adventure, you don’t have to drive very far. In Arizona, I’ve now found a new home for my passion for culinary travel.”
-Mark Tarbell, host
Carole Meyer, chef/owner:
“‘Check, Please! Arizona’ producer Margery Punnett was at my restaurant a few years ago. At the time, she said to me, you know, you should really try to get on the show. (I didn’t know who she was, then.) I said, oh, I would love to, can you tell me what I would need to do? And she said, well, your restaurant needs to age. I remembered that conversation because I walked away going ‘So many restaurants fail, but I’m not going to be one of those!’ So it put a little more fuel in my tank to be successful.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time, this particular concept. I would say it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life, to have an idea and work for two years to put it all together. We had to build machines, there were so many obstacles that we had to find answers to. So every day is really really rewarding.”
Second Story Liquor Bar
Tommy Plato, owner:
“I think I’m the first guy to cry on ‘Check, Please! Arizona.’ I hope they put it in. They asked me what my favorite part of the restaurant is, and it made me tear up. I answered that the people, so the guests, the staff, I love it. …It was very out of the blue for me — I was completely triggered and had to gather myself, it was weird. After doing this for the three and a half years I’ve had the restaurant, it’s a kind of validation, so that’s a cool thing. I think that emotion just came out, the release that finally people are catching on.
“When I was younger, I always wanted to be a producer of movies, right? I never moved to California to pursue that, but in essence, I’m fulfilling that dream because everyday is a production upstairs and you have to be on stage. We bring an old-school vibe, that ‘Mad Men’ feeling to it, the whiskey and the allure and the hidden gem kind of vibe, the exclusiveness. So to execute that vision, you have to be on stage every day, so in essence I did kind of fulfill that dream of producing, and I try to get my staff in the same state of mind.”
Cuisine & Wine Bistro
Máiréad Buschtetz, co-owner:
“Our restaurant is very different from restaurants that I see in Arizona. It is so unusual for a whole family to work together. It is even more unusual to see that the fourth generation of the same family are still in the same business. Fabrice (Máiréad’s husband) does beef bourguignon and moules frites (mussels & French fries) as his mother and grandmother did before him.
“Fabrice trained our oldest son Steven as a chef. Our second son Killian is a trained server and bartender, and has just passed his first level sommelier exam. Our daughter Laura is one of our managers.”
How did you react when you were invited to be part of the show?
“First we were so surprised. Then we felt honored. Then we were worried about the outcome. It was a wonderful experience, though it will be nerve-racking watching the show and wondering how Mark Tarbell will react to the participants’ observations!”
Indian Delhi Palace
Phulprett Singh, manager:
“We had a great time working with Margery and her team while filming for the episode. She was very at good making me and rest of the team at Indian Delhi Palace feel comfortable in front of the camera.
“The best part of being in the restaurant biz for us is that we are able to introduce Indian food to people who have never seen it or heard it of it before. When we first opened, we were the only Indian restaurant in Phoenix and many people were new to the concept of curry. Over the decades we have seen the taste of Phoenix grow with the city. The love and appreciation of Indian cuisine has increased all over America, and we have loved being a part of it.”
Aaron Pool, chef/owner:
“We’re really excited and happy and proud that people were so excited about Gadzooks to get it on the show… What was so cool about [filming the show] was that it was just another day. We were just ourselves, it was the same restaurant, but we had cameras in the dining room and in the kitchen following the production of our enchiladas. What you’re going to see on the show is really, truly how Gadzooks operates.
“Gadzooks is a different take on Mexican. I benchmarked every single thing that we do, from our corn tortillas to the pico de gallo, against what I felt was best in class in Arizona at any type of Mexican restaurant. You’ve got to be as good or better than the competition, and when you do that throughout the line with the 50 or so different things you can put into an enchilada or taco or nachos, you can create something really special, flavor-wise.”
Linda Q, co-owner:
“With any of the restaurants that we’ve had, the most satisfying part is creating a concept that is not very vast or well known here in the Valley and being able to introduce that concept to diners who have never even seen the concept before. And when they come back over and over again and recommend it to other people, it shows that our vision and what we’re doing is right.
“Any time you open a restaurant, it’s not for your own gratification. You want to introduce new diners to a new experience or a new concept or your own cooking. Like this concept with Shabu Fondue is like Asian soul food. Every Asian country has their own version of hot pot, shabu shabu, so to introduce that to people that have no idea what it is and have them enjoy it and like it and want more of it, that’s very gratifying.”