David Morris is the culinary director of Alliance Hospitality Group, which has a portfolio of casual restaurants and fine dining concepts in the Los Angeles and Phoenix markets. Locally, in addition to FLINT By Baltaire in Phoenix, AHG recently added Scottsdale’s Donabe to its roster. Learn about David Morris…
First job: I got my first job when I was 14 years old, peddling an icicle tricycle in Old Town Scottsdale and selling a variety of treats and ice cream sandwiches.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in AZ: Having been born here, then moving away only to return time after time, Arizona has always been home. Everywhere I have been in the Grand Canyon State has some reverence to a certain point in my life. A few things I enjoy include day trips exploring Arizona’s wide-open spaces and rich history, as well as our beautiful lakes. Northern Arizona holds a special place in my heart having spent several years in Prescott working at El Chaparral Restaurant. Phoenix includes great museums, professional sports teams we all love, golf courses everywhere, nightlife and an incredible food scene that is quickly evolving. We have come a long way from the days when tumbleweeds rolled down Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road, which, by the way, was the end of paved roads heading north! What an amazing place to call home.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Professionally speaking, my biggest accomplishment is yet to come. I am fortunate in finding my passion and path at an early age in the hospitality industry, which has never strayed or diminished. This journey has been filled with so many accomplishments and blessings that have been unimaginably rewarding, excruciatingly painful and humbling, and they continue to drive my creativity, human connection, and teach me lessons about life.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Certain, we can all agree, the past couple of years have been no picnic!
Someone who inspires you and why:
I have been fortunate to work in very inspiring cities over the past several years, including Las Vegas, Seattle, New York City, New Orleans and Houston alongside some amazing people. I have discovered the profound value in human connection and spirit, we’re all in it together. There are so many people who inspire me that it is difficult to select just one, so I have included a few shout outs of mine.
Kenny Brambilla and Mark Schipper: If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Johnny Bartilomo: You inspired me in culinary school and continue to be a friend and guide.
Bill Sy and Walter Leible: Thank you for seeing something in me and taking a chance!
Sean DiCiccio and Bernard Ibarra: Both challenged me to think and grow larger than I could have alone.
Travis Strickland: For giving me the platform to be part of something special, dream big and reach for the stars.
Christopher Walling: Your passion and talent for always moving the saltshaker.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Be patient. Stay humble. Be respectful. Remember we are in the human connection business. Eat everything. Ask yourself the question “why” often. Travel as much as you can. Keep a journal so you can look back and reflect. Walk in the back door of any great restaurant when you’re looking for work, and request to speak with the chef directly. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep an open mind about the future; you never will know what is just around the corner. Don’t forget, you are creating friendships and memories that will last forever! Hospitality is a life journey, it never ends.
Favorite quote: “Cooking is fun if you love it.” –CMC Walter Leible
“Keep moving the saltshaker.” –Danny Meyer
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I was adopted as an only child and raised by a single father, but did not find out about the adoption until my early 20’s. When Ancestry DNA came along, I submitted DNA to find out anything I could about biological parents and family tree. Unfortunately, at the time, I was unable to find anything. To my surprise, last year, I was informed of a half-sister! Her name is Sheri Bennett and our biological father is Richie Albright, who played drums for Waylon Jennings! Life continues to surprise you!
What makes someone fabulous: Believing that you should work in order to make things better for others makes you fabulous.