By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Debby Wolvos
Chef Erasmo “Razz” Kamnitzer has been serving elevated international food using modern techniques and bold flavors at the locally loved Razz’s Restaurant & Bar for decades.
You fought the idea of becoming a chef?
I come from seven generations of chefs. Initially, I wanted to do something different, so I enrolled in veterinary school at the University of Maine.
So, why aren’t we calling you Dr. Kamnitzer today?
I could only fight my calling for so long. I eventually transferred to the Culinary Institute of America in New York and also studied in Switzerland. My journey took me to kitchens in New York, Florida and even Wyoming – where I ran a hotel and its culinary program – before making my way to Arizona in 1978.
Tell us about your culinary journey in the Valley.
I took a job on a culinary team that included Eric LaQua, Christopher Gross and Francis Compte at a then-new hotel, The Registry Resort. I would eventually open a series of high-end dining establishments of my own – including several that bared the name Kamnitzer – throughout the 1980s before getting the idea for Razz’s.
Where did you get the idea?
From a longtime customer! He complained my name was difficult to pronounce and nicknamed me “Razz” in homage to my first name and my ability to “razzle dazzle” guests. It stuck! My first Razz’s was farther west in the 1980s, and I would go on to lead other concepts, including Different Pointe of View, before briefly relocating to Napa in the early 1990s. I moved back and opened the current Razz’s in 1995.
How would you describe Razz’s?
I fancy it a restaurant and art gallery. My own art and friend’s art adorns the walls as guests enjoy my ever-changing menu that highlights exotic fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, and mouthwateringly prepared meats and seafood.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I hate peanut butter and capers. You won’t see them at Razz’s.
Razz’s, 10315 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale; 480.905.1308; www.razzsrestaurant.com.