By Alison Bailin Batz / Photo by Debby Wolvos
Samantha Roberts serves as executive chef of Scottsdale-based Riot Hospitality Group, overseeing the kitchens and menus for each of the brand’s eight restaurants across Arizona, including Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, Farm & Craft, El Hefe, and Hand Cut Burgers & Chophouse.
You’re a homegrown chef?
I am. I grew up in the Valley, graduating from Mountain View High School and then starting at ASU – dreaming of being everything from an attorney to a marine biologist – before realizing that the traditional career path wasn’t for me. On a whim, I looked into culinary school and signed up at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. It took a week for me to know I was where I belonged.
How did you get your start in the restaurant business?
While still in school in 2001, I had the chance to work for The Phoenician as well as take on a three-month externship at a lauded fine dining restaurant just outside of London. The Phoenician not only gave me the freedom to go on the culinary adventure of a lifetime, but they took me back after, eventually promoting me to work as a cook at the iconic Mary Elaine’s.
England also boasts your personal culinary hero?
Absolutely. While abroad, I had the chance to volunteer in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen – and this is before he became a TV star. The experience changed my life and how I approach food.
When did you make your way to Riot?
In 2011, Riot had one location: El Hefe. But, they had plans to open the first Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row by year’s end, so I volunteered to work any job at El Hefe to be given the chance to help develop Whiskey Row’s menu and open the restaurant. I eventually took on Whiskey Row’s second location in Tempe, and then had the chance to develop our Hand Cut and Farm & Craft concepts.
What would readers be surprised to know about you?
I live on a working farm with chickens, a turkey and horses that I raise and train.
Find all restaurant locations at www.riothg.com.