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OWNER/CHEF JEFF SMEDSTAD
ELOTE CAFE | SEDONA, ARIZONA
 
Before, I was concerned that people knew that I was a
legitimate Mexican food cook. Now I believe that it’s more
May 2016 Issue | Vol. 4, No. 9           important that they know that I have my own style.














 








 
 
 
 

       
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JW MARRIOTT TUCSON STARR PASS
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Jeff Smedstad, Owner/Chef | Elote Cafe | Sedona, Arizona In June 2007, Jeff Smedstad opened his second story restaurant, Elote Cafe, in Sedona. Now, nudging ten years after, diners gather a half-hour before the dinner doors open, all the way down the flight of stairs to street level, to get a taste of Smedstad’s creative-Oaxaca-style cuisine. “I’m just a kid from Chandler,” Smedstad said about his success, “you know? And when I set out, I set out with some ideas in my head, but I didn’t know if it would ever actually come true. “I’m excited that Elote is even here today,” Smedstad continued. “Not to mention the fact that we can make it grow into something even bigger. Not in the fact that we can have 20 of them, but that we can make this an even more legendary place. That’s what we’re striving for now. To make this a really—looking for words like legendary and iconic. We’re looking at every angle that we can do to make this a great experience for everybody every night. And in our own way of doing it.” Smedstad didn’t immediately reach the legendary and iconic stage. He traveled around the culinary block a time or two, “trying to figure out what all these other great chefs are doing” and attempted “eight ways to Tuesday” to improve on his classic dishes only to end up back at square one. “Being me,” Smedstad concluded, “is a little bit different than being anybody else in the whole universe, you know. You get to that point where, Hey, it’s okay to be me, and it works. So I’ve really begun to imprint my style into things. Some of it’s Mexican and some of it’s what you would consider Southwestern.” For example, the Smoked Pork Cheeks, which Smedstad calls his Dish of Memories. The memories start with a cascabel tomatillo sauce. He learned how to make it from his ex-mother-in-law down in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. “It’s one of those things that I will never forget,” Smedstad shared the story. “We made a nice little dinner with braised pork in a similar sauce to that, and I fell in love with the flavors. She didn’t often cook, and she kind of laughed at me like, Well, this isn’t exactly a big deal. Well, it is to me. So I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ve never forgotten her.”