By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Debby Wolvos
Charleen Badman is co-owner and executive chef of FnB, where she has earned national acclaim for her richly flavored menus showcasing Arizona’s abundant agricultural community.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
It wasn’t until high school when I got into a food-focused vocational program called FEAST that I thought I could make cooking a career. Through FEAST, I got a job at Café Terra Cotta in Tucson, which changed the course of my life.
I worked at Terra Cotta for six years, and during that time I moved to the Valley to open a second location. There, I met Chrysa Robertson. In 1994, when Robertson opened Rancho Pinot, I joined her and Chris Bianco in the kitchen. At Rancho Pinot, I met Pavle Milic, who handled the front of the house and would become my business partner 15 years later.
What happened during those 15 years?
In late 1995, I applied for a position at Anne Rosenzweig’s Lobster Club in New York. She was one of the first female chefs to earn a three-star review by the The New York Times. Bianco’s parents – who lived in upstate New York – picked me up at the airport and let me stay with them. I got the job, and by 2001, I opened my own restaurant with Rosenzweig called Inside, just miles from the World Trade Center.
How did you make your way back to Arizona?
I came back (to the far more reasonably priced) Valley and Rancho Pinot in 2006, reuniting with Milic. By 2009, we were not only close friends but also ready to become business partners in FnB.
How would you describe your menu?
We make everyone love eating veggies! Our menu lets locally grown vegetables shine, often with globally inspired ingredients, especially from Asia and India.
What would we be surprised to know about you?
I am a proud member of the Arizona Herb Association, where we call ourselves “Herbies.”
FnB, 7125 E. 5th Ave., Scottsdale; 480.284.4777; www.fnbrestaurant.com.