FOODIES WEST.COM         
 CHEF/RESTAURATEUR KEVIN BINKLEY
Don’t give up. Everybody gives up. Everybody expects it to be easy, and it's not.
May 2015 Issue / Vol. 3, No. 9                                                                                                                                                                                                                 















 

 




 
      
Executive Chef 
Umit Kaygusuz


      
May 2015
Chef's Larder

      
Sarah Beth Spear
Rum Princesa

      
A Year in Champagne
The Movie

Want to know the most logical piece of advice Chef Binkley got during his career?

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Squash Blossoms:
Floral flophouses?


     
The Dining Room

      
Grand Poppy Liqueur:
Message in a bottle.

     
Yogurt by Janet Fletcher


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Chef/Restaurateur Kevin Binkley, Binkley's Restaurant, Cave Creek, Arizona; Bink's Café, Carefree, Arizona, Bink's Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Arizona; Bink's Midtown, Phoenix, Arizona
In his celebrated Twelfth Night quote, Shakespeare advised, . . . but be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Kevin Binkley might not have connected the dots when he took his first job in the kitchen when he turned 14, the only place he’s worked since then. But his Fates, as the next line goes, had opened their hands. When Binkley went to college and had to declare a major, there wasn’t anything that interested him “for, like, eternity.” So he left and got another job—cooking—because that’s all he’d ever done. “I was working with a friend of mine who had just graduated from the Culinary Institute of America,” Binkley recalled, “and he said to me, It seems like you have a passion for this. Have you considered going to culinary school? And it was like a light bulb went off in my head.” Since this revelation happened before the Food Network existed, most of his friends advised, You’re out of your mind. Don’t do it. But his stepfather and mom encouraged him. He enrolled at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. “Going to culinary school and learning how to cook in the morning and cooking in the afternoon didn’t really seem like school to me,” Binkley said. “So I loved it. It was great. So I put my head down ever since I knew that was the direction I wanted to go.” Now, just because he knew the direction, Binkley admits he didn’t actually know what he was getting into. Especially when he decided to do his externship at Inn at Little Washington. Owner/chef, Patrick O’Connell—the persnickety “pope of American cuisine” who has won stars, diamonds, and Beards (1993 Restaurant of the Year and 2001 Outstanding Chef)—operated his kitchen on the premise that constantly improving is the only way to make sure guests think it’s just as good as before. “People that were working there were working at an entirely different level than a regular restaurant,” Binkley continued. “It takes dedication to want to work like that. It was eye-opening.” Once Binkley moved to a sous chef position, he got to know O’Connell. He started helping him with cooking demonstrations or seminars and events. As a thank-you, O’Connell would take Binkley to dinner. Binkley recalled one such time, in 1997, at Daniel. Binkley described himself as “a little peon” that basically sat and watched the evening unfold. And there were perks. One time, O’Connell flew Binkley to Chicago just to eat at Tru. And another time to dine at Charlie Trotter’s when Chef Marc Veyrat—the self-professed “Sovoy farmer” who has racked up awards, Michelin stars and perfect points with his molecular gastronomy using Alpine herbs and minerals—cooked there. “He was trying to expose me,” Binkley said, “open my eyes. And it was incredible. I would kill myself for him. He was absolutely—he would not allow us not to succeed while I was working for him. But in return, I got this incredible education I would have never expected. “So really, I owe getting to this point to him,” Binkley said, and then expanded his list of inspirers. “Along with my stepfather, who pointed me in that direction, Pat O’Connell who mentored me, and Thomas Keller.”