Keon Salehizadeh, the Executive Chef at Social Tap Eatery in Scottsdale, has created some amazing dishes for many restaurants, always with the most fabulous presentation.
First job: Chick-Fil-A was my first job at the age of 15. My first professional kitchen job was at the age of 16 when I started working at a Middle-Eastern restaurant in Denver.
Favorite AZ restaurant: Right now I’m on a Thai kick so Little Thaiger in Scottsdale is definitely my spot. They know what they are doing and they are doing it well!
Person who has impacted your life the most: My grandfather was the person who had the most influence on me as a child. He is the reason I became a chef. My grandfather cooked for the Shah of Iran back in the day and has owned a restaurant in his home country. He was the greatest man I have ever known besides my father. Cooking was his passion and first love–you could see it emanating from him when he would cook and I have always carried that same passion throughout my 14-year career. Some of my best memories were just sitting there as a child watching him meticulously prepare dishes for us.
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes: Becoming a chef has been my greatest accomplishment. I was a civil engineering major previously and realized I couldn’t sit behind a computer all day for a living. That life just wasn’t for me.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: The biggest obstacle was explaining to my parents that being a chef was my calling. My parents are always supportive but my father knows the amount of sacrifice it takes to cook in a restaurant since he saw his father growing up in the restaurant industry and working 16 to 18 hours a day.
Someone who inspires you: My parents inspire me the most in my life. They have worked hard all their lives for all the right reasons. My father is the example I live by. He is the greatest man I know and lives his life so selflessly for his family. I hope to be half the man he is one day. I have big shoes to fill.
Favorite quote: “Humility, Dedication, Sacrifice” These are words to live by in the kitchen.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Make sure you love this industry. Too many cooks nowadays are in the industry for all the wrong reasons. If you are in the industry just to make a paycheck, you simply will not survive. It takes a special breed to do this job every day and consistently at a high-intensity level. Prepare yourself for 16 hour days, and getting yelled at for your imperfections but remain humble and always learn something new every day. Humility will be a word you will become very familiar with, but let that be your motivation to always strive to be better than the person than you were yesterday.
What makes someone fabulous: This makes me laugh- I have never really thought of someone and immediately thought “WOW” they are fabulous. When I think about it relative to the kitchen, someone fabulous would be the person that is confident in their craft without having to boast about their skills. I like the chefs that are humble versus arrogant and that let the results do the talking.
For more information about Social Tap, visit socialtapscottsdale.com.