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10 Questions with T. Cook's Lee Hillson

By Lauren Swanson-Tyda | March 11, 2020 | Food & Drink

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He’s back—the man, the myth, the legend. Culinary veteran chef Lee Hillson has returned as executive chef of T. Cook’s, and, if his marvelous new menu is any indication, there’s no place like home.

What, in your opinion, makes T. Cook’s special?
It’s one of Arizona’s few historic restaurants, and it’s served generations of guests over time, which is what makes it so special to me. Food is meant to evoke memories for people, and the atmosphere and menu at T. Cook’s accomplishes that.

What do you plan to bring to the table (no pun intended)?
Some of the restaurant’s iconic menu favorites will be returning, along with a handful of brand-new dishes that all demonstrate an honest, sensible approach to cuisine. Expect to see staples like the lobster bisque, Mediterranean paella and my signature pasta carbonara.

What’s the dish—the one you would dine on if you were not
in the kitchen?
It honestly depends on my mood. I love pizza; it’s always a go-to for me, but there are times I have a hankering for some Mexican, and that means it’s time for a visit to chef Silvana [Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café]!

Favorite restaurant in Phoenix/Scottsdale?
Probably Tarbell’s and Elements. Richardson’s for breakfast on the weekend.

Ingredient you are loving right now?
People who know me know I love lamb neck. It’s such a great, underrated cut of meat. Flavorful as all heck!

What dish are you experimenting with at the moment?
Veal cheek sandwich with my sous chefs Pedro Felix, Roberto Avitia and Mireya Ryan.

Last thing you cooked?
Goat cheese panna cotta, basil vanilla apple, arugula salad and crostini.

Best thing you ever tasted?
The artichoke truffle soup at Guy Savoy–OMG!

Weirdest thing you ever tasted?
I tried cured whale in Norway... yuck.

Most unusual request from a diner?
There was a dish called Billi Bi that was a mussel soup. A guest asked for no mussels… Oh how we laughed in the kitchen!

T. Cook’s, Royal Palms Resort & Spa, 5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.808.0766



Tags: people chef

Photography by: Carl Schultz | shot on location at t. cook’s