Yesterday, Oct 17, the highly-publicized luxury hotel and residences, Fairmont Phoenix, announced that two-Michelin Star and James Beard Award-winning Chef Alex Stratta, will serve as culinary director for its five onsite restaurants, overseeing everything from menu curation to day-to-day operations. The Fairmont Phoenix, which will be located downtown at 39 E. Jackson St, is due to open in 2025.
“I felt fantastic about the opportunity,” Stratta tells What Now Phoenix of when he got the call to lead the culinary program. “At this stage in my career, I want to establish everything I’ve ever learned and worked for – I want to put it in one place and say here’s my body of work.”
As such, Stratta will be developing the menus at five distinct restaurants, all of which are yet to be named but include an Italian coastal steakhouse, Mexican cantina, speakeasy, poolside bar, and lobby bar.
“It’s kind of like we just found out we’re pregnant, and we don’t know what to name our kids yet,” says Stratta, adding, “We want to make them institutions, at the end of the day. We want to be the place that’s been there since forever, and we want to make a name that will last the test of time, as well as a hotel that’s going to last the test of time.”
The largest concept is the Italian coastal steakhouse, which Stratta sees as a valuable opportunity to “showcase some really great, fresh seafood that’s not the usual suspects,” such as fish imported from Europe, cooked whole on the grill and “simply dressed” in olive oil to “capture the essence” of traditional coastal Italian cooking. Meanwhile, the steakhouse component will be distinguished by Spanish pork, rack of lamb from New Zealand, and “all kinds of great, primal cuts of meat which I think are going to be very exciting to do,” says Stratta, complemented with Italian-focused side dishes including freshly made pasta and crudo – an Italian dish of raw fish – to give it “that sushi twist.”
Bringing Stratta back to his roots will be the Mexican cantina, which will give the chef the chance to “introduce some really fresh, vibrant flavors from Mexican cooking” and “incorporate some really authentic Mexican dishes” that he grew up with while living in the country during his formative years.
Lastly, the more libation-focused concepts with beverage programs helmed by the acclaimed sommelier Erik Segelbaum will be the speakeasy, as well as the pool and lobby bars which will “provide a hub for visitors to gather and socialize while enjoying bites and drinks,” according to a press release.
“I like to imagine that Alex is the movie producer and I am creating the musical score, Segelbaum said in a statement. “The beverage program will be the perfectly mastered soundtrack to harmonize with the overall culinary experience. For me, luxury is all about having options, so there will be thoughtful and sensible variety that encourages guests’ sense of discovery.”
Needless to say, Stratta’s position as culinary director of the Fairmont Phoenix not only marks an opportunity for the chef to return to a city he’s spent many years in, but it also stands as the culmination of his life’s work.
“I really want people to feel the passion and the amount of discipline and dedication it’s taken me to get to a certain level,” says Stratta. “You know, I had Michelin-star restaurants, but I want to have Michelin-style food, in the sense of not fancy, but just really really great, soulful delicious food with the utmost attention to quality. And that’s what I’ve always been about. It’s never been about fancy food, it’s just been about delicious food.”