People from across the nation turn to Valley resident Joanie Simon for food inspiration. Simon hosts a weekly live cooking show, “The Dinner Bell,” on Facebook; produces popular YouTube videos showing how to create her many recipes; is seen on regular cooking segments on “Good Morning Arizona” and “Arizona Daily Mix;” and runs her website, a mix of unique recipes, a blog and stunning food photography. Here, she dishes about work, life and food in the Valley of the Sun.
What do you like most about living in the Valley?
It’s home. I’m a third generation-Arizonan and I love knowing stories from my grandparents—and great-grandparents—about Phoenix back-in-the-day, like the dining hot spot, Oscar Taylor, and the awesome baked goods from Guggy’s. I also love that it’s a giant small town. It’s the sixth largest city in the nation but still has the closeness of a smaller city.
Favorite local restaurants?
My favorite brunch spot, hands-down, is Proof at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale. Obviously, the service is beyond outstanding and they always keep my coffee filled. The food is the perfect balance of clean and simple, but classic and comforting. I love the view from the patio, too.
Favorite spots around town?
Aside from the meat and seafood department? I love Seventh Avenue’s vintage shops for unique food props. I’m always on the lookout for funky plates, bowls and flatware to use in my food photography.
You quit your day job to launch your company! What inspired the change?
I was going through a personal journey of recovery and healing, and realized that I was not in my job because I loved it, but because I felt obligated to it. I didn’t know what I was going to do specifically when I left my day job, but I knew it would be something creative and would involve food.
How did you get started in the food industry?
I loved cooking as a kid, even though I didn’t come from a particularly “foodie” family. I was always drawn to the kitchen and reading recipes. My passion really ignited when I started getting to know local chefs through my work in the restaurant technology business. Several of them have been invaluable mentors to me.
What is your favorite part of what you’re doing now?
There are a lot of favorite parts, but I especially love when I hear from someone who made one of my recipes and enjoyed it. My scalloped potatoes are one of the recipes I hear back about the most, and it’s always a hit!
What, if anything, inspires your recipes?
A lot of them are inspired by the food of my childhood. My mom wasn’t a super foodie, but she had some solid standards and we made a lot of food memories. I have taken a lot of her recipes and remade or updated them, like chicken enchiladas, oven baked chicken and chocolate chip cookies. I also pull influence from the Southwest, growing up with great Mexican food.
What are your favorite local ingredients to cook with?
Hayden Flour Mills’ grain products are all excellent. I especially love their pastry flour, which makes all baked goods like scones and cookies light and fluffy. I’m also a sucker for snazzy packaging and I love their branding.
To end…what’s one piece of cooking advice you can share?
Don’t overcomplicate cooking. That’s what I did for years. I was always using too many ingredients, trying to make food more difficult than it needed to be. The best food is many times the simplest. Get good ingredients, keep them few and treat them well.