Live Gourmet Chef Interview: Zach Hoffman

Lettuce tell you about Chef Zach Hoffman of Wilcox, Arizona who runs his own restaurant, called A Taste of Coronado. Zach posted about his love for Live Gourmet Butter Lettuce on our facebook page, and after checking out his awesome restaurant, we decided that we wanted to hear his story.

Here’s the interview:

What inspired you to become a chef, and did you always want to open your own restaurant?
My mother and my wife are what inspired me to become a chef. My mom is always in the kitchen, and, often as a child, I was her little helper. I didn’t become interested in the restaurant industry until I was 24. I was a Metal Spinner for a few years when I told my wife that I wanted to do something different for a living. I started going to college for an architecture degree, but it didn’t feel right. She said “What do you like to do that doesn’t feel like work?” I said, “Cooking, but cooks don’t make any money” Then, she said, “Chefs do. Find a great college and we’ll go from there”. I found Scottsdale Culinary Institute was one of the best in the country after doing some research online. Even though it was expensive, my wife encouraged me to pursue it. I have always wanted to own my own business because my parents taught me that the only money to be made in this world is the money you make for yourself.

Tell us a little bit about your restaurant, A Taste Of Coronado.
We are a small restaurant located in the beautiful tasting facilities for Coronado Vineyards which is off exit 344 of the Interstate 10 going through Willcox, Arizona. (Address: 2909 E Country Club) We are roughly an hour east of Tucson, an hour north of Sierra Vista, and an hour south of Safford. We lease the restaurant from the vineyard owners, Jacque & Mark Cook. We have amazing views from the windows of our restaurant, sort of a “diamond in the rough” feel.

I have a French Culinary Arts degree in Le Cordon Bleu, so I blend French & American styles. I like “Classic” French dishes and plate many entrees that way (Clean rim, no “frilly” garnishes). We set the tables formally along with nicely folded napkins. When the weather allows it, we have outdoor seating…

One of characteristics of the restaurant is that we like to create weekly specials of Fish, Soup, Entrees and Desserts. We strive to buy more and more organic and local food. We have started by purchasing food from local orchards like Apple Annie’s Orchard, local grass-fed beef and free-range chicken from Chiracahua Pastured Raised Meats and are buying more and more organic foods. I recently added vegetarian dishes and gluten-free notations to my menu too. We also have Local Willcox Appreciation Mondays where locals receive 15% off their dinners for just being a local patron. Kids eat free on Sundays and Mondays to promote a family-friendly atmosphere.

Running a restaurant is a lot of work! How have you balanced your personal life with running A Taste of Coronado?
What’s a personal life!? We are in the first year of the business, so I spend time with my wife and daughter when they are at the restaurant with me. And I have a couple of nights a week we are not open, but I normally use those times for sleeping in, marketing and business meetings.

Where do you draw your culinary inspiration from?
Georges Auguste Escoffier, one of the most inspirational chefs in French Cooking is a huge inspiration for me. His simplistic style is why I plate my food the same way. A few of the chefs from my work history inspired me in their own way too.

We love that you use Live Gourmet butter lettuce in some of your recipes. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose Live Gourmet and how you use it at your restaurant?
My wife purchased some Live Gourmet butter lettuce last year. She is picky about her salads and lettuce selection. She pointed out that the lettuce lasts much longer than bagged or head lettuce. After a couple of problems with the lettuce I was having delivered, I saw that Live Gourmet lettuce was available to order. I didn’t even hesitate; I ordered a case. I’ve always thought that butter lettuce has a wonderful flavor. I use it for my Grass-fed beef Cheeseburgers for brunch. I [use only Live Gourmet Butter Lettuce] for my house salads and César salads. There was even a week when there was a supply issue and the price dramatically increased, I never thought twice about keeping the same product. I love using this lettuce and hope you guys come up with more Live Gourmet products for me to use in the future. My favorite story to tell about Live Gourmet is that we had a freeze in February, for a week we were closed, the lettuce was still crisp and fresh for service a week later. I love this product.

Who do you admire most as a chef, and how have they influenced you?
Georges Auguste Escoffier and Alton Brown. They both wanted/want to learn as much as possible about food and culinary arts. Alton is an influence because he goes the extra mile to explain to non-foodies how & why you cook something a certain way. I do the same thing and have the same characteristics.

What has been your biggest achievement lately that you’re really proud of?
Besides owning my own restaurant, it would have to be: being the only person considered for a local Culinary teaching position. I love to teach cooking, [and] to be the only person considered for the positions is a great feeling.

What are some of your goals for A Taste Of Coronado over the next few years?
We plan to start ice carvings/ demonstrations of ice carvings in the near future, become an event destination place off I-10 in Arizona, open for lunches, and generally, be one of the best restaurants in Southern Arizona!

Do you know someone who you think deserves to be in our Chef Spotlight? We’d love to hear from you about it, or any other feedback you might have. Please connect with us, or leave a comment on this post.

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