By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Debby Wolvos
Russell LaCasce, a 20-year industry veteran, joined Hotel Valley Ho as executive chef in early 2017, overseeing all culinary operations for the hotel, including the pools, in-room dining, banquets, catering and its signature restaurant, ZuZu.
Where did you get your start?
When I was 13, I began washing dishes at a tiny seafood restaurant on the beach in Charleston, South Carolina, before heading to Utah to start my career. Ready to get serious, I moved to the Valley in 2006 to attend the Arizona Culinary Institute.
How did you get into the local food scene?
It all started for me in 2006 while I was still in school, when I took a position at the Royal Palms Resort’s famed T. Cook’s working under chef Lee Hillson. So I got my start at one of the state’s most famous restaurants under one of the Valley’s culinary icons – no pressure or anything!
What was your big break?
Timing is everything in life. In 2010, just as Sanctuary was going through a renovation and Chef Beau MacMillan was making a name for himself on the national stage with several Food Network shows and specials, I took a position on their team, earning my way to executive sous chef before joining Hotel Valley Ho, a Sanctuary sister property. Thankfully, we will still get to collaborate.
What can guests expect from you at ZuZu?
I live to make good ingredients taste great and love to create dishes that are colorful, sleek and sexy, yet still approachable. Think tuna tartare with avocado mousse and kumquats.
Hotel Valley Ho, 6850 E. Main St., Scottsdale; 480.376.2600; www.hotelvalleyho.com.