By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Debby Wolvos
Drew Holowicki is the executive chef at The Scottsdale Plaza Resort, overseeing all culinary operations including JD’s Restaurant and Lounge, Garden Court, Cafe Cabana, in-room dining and banquets.
How did you get your start in cooking? I grew up in Detroit and studied criminal justice at Michigan State University, thinking I might go into federal law enforcement. But, I loved cooking. So much so I took a year off after my junior year to work more seriously on my craft. But, with only one year left in college, I went back and earned my degree before moving to Scottsdale in 2002 to attend the Scottsdale Culinary Institute.
Tell us about your trajectory in Arizona. I started in the kitchen at Desert Mountain Country Club before moving over to the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in 2003. There, I met a kindred spirit in fellow chef Erik Forrest. I eventually became a chef for Nordstrom Restaurants, including the location at Scottsdale Fashion Square, where I worked for nearly six years and served as executive chef from 2010 to 2015.
What was the best thing about heading up the Nordstrom kitchen? Be jealous. I got 33% off at all Nordstrom locations nationwide.
How did you make your way to The Scottsdale Plaza Resort? Erik Forrest, the executive chef at that time and my above-noted kindred spirit, recruited me to be his sous chef back in January. When he transitioned to food and beverage director in May, I was named executive chef.
Tell us about your newly launched menu at JD’s Restaurant and Lounge. While we aren’t going so far as foams or emulsions, JD’s has evolved into a gastropub. We launched a new menu to match this vision. Ingredients are fresher, techniques have been modernized, and the menu is a now mix of elevated comfort food and sharable date night bites.
What ingredients do you love right now? Or hate? Kale needs to go back to being a garnish, where it belongs! Conversely, Mexican oregano is one of the most underrated spices of all time.
The Scottsdale Plaza Resort, 7200 N. Scottsdale Road, Paradise Valley; 480.948.5000; www.scottsdaleplaza.com.