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Q&A: Christina Barrueta Dishes on Her New Cookbook

“Phoenix Cooks” explores some of the best-known chef-driven menu items in town.

By Olivia Munson

In 2019, award-winning food and beverage writer—and frequent Phoenix Home & Garden contributor—Christina Barrueta brought us an in-depth look at the Grand Canyon State’s viticulture industry in “Arizona Wine: A History of Perseverance and Passion” (The History Press). In her second compendium, “Phoenix Cooks: Recipes from the City’s Finest Chefs” (Figure 1) set for release in fall 2020, Barrueta explores the Valley’s dynamic food scene. It is part of the publisher’s City Cookbook series, which highlights different regional cuisine throughout the U.S. Fifty of Phoenix’s most notable chefs share 100 recipes designed for home cooks of all skill levels, complemented by stunning color photographs by local photographer Joanie Simon.

When it comes to Arizona food, Barrueta has done it all, having her own award-winning food blog, WriteOnRubee.com, to serving as a guest contributor on TV shows, to being a regular judge of various cuisine and cocktail competitions. In 2016, she was inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame as Food Writer of the Year.

We recently sat down with Barrueta to chat about the process of creating a cookbook and how Phoenix is deserving of a spot on the culinary map.

Phoenix Home & Garden: How did “Phoenix Cooks” come about?

Christina Barrueta: The publisher was seeking out regions in the United States, so I was honored when they came to me. This book is the reason why I started my website and do everything I do—that is to show people what is happening in Phoenix and that we’re a city worthy of being recognized as a food capital.

PHG: What do you want people learn about Phoenix’s food scene?

Barrueta: In my introduction, I talk about how everyone is familiar with our sunsets and beautiful natural parks, but there are hidden vistas—the ranches, farms and vineyards. Arizona isn’t a barren landscape. I want to share these jewels and the passion that people have for our state’s agriculture. I really tried to support both the reader and the

chef. I write in the beginning that I hope this book becomes a guide on where to eat—and not simply become just another a cookbook.

PHG: How did you narrow down who would be included in “Phoenix Cooks?”

Barrueta: The publisher wanted me to include a minimum of 40 restaurants. I knew I could easily come up with 75. You’ll find there are names you know like Alessandro Stratta, who has won a James Beard Award, or Samantha Sanz at the Four Seasons who has been nominated twice for the Best Chef of the Southwest. I tried to include a good mix of resort properties, hidden gems, mom and pop’s, and family-owned places.

PHG: How does this cookbook showcase the diverse nature of Phoenix’s food scene?

Barrueta: When I cook for myself, I make Asian food one day and then the next I’ll do Italian. This book is like that. It covers cuisine from Thailand, Peru, Cuba, Italy and Japan. Some of the recipes are very complicated and celebration-worthy, but others are perfect for a weekday meal. I tried to include a little bit of everything. If someone is a vegetarian, there are recipes they can make. If somebody is a steak-and-potatoes person, there are dishes for them, too.

PHG: What’s the major takeaway of “Phoenix Cooks?”

Barrueta: I want the rest of the nation to take note. Everybody in the local food scene is so interconnected, and the comradery and support that everyone shows each other is very special in Phoenix. So if you’re traveling to Phoenix, or you’ve live here, why not buy a great cookbook for your family and friends back home—or for yourself—and share what is happening in our wonderful city.

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