As 2023 kicks off, Talavera and Chef de Cuisine Jesus Figueroa usher in a new era of fine Spanish cuisine.
Talavera’s new Chef de Cuisine Jesus Figueroa is taking the fine dining restaurant back to its roots.
“Expect Talavera to experience a return to Spanish favorites,” Chef Figueroa says. “The Iberian Peninsula has a plethora of amazing ingredients. We will start to bring in some of the amazing Jamon that is so prized in Spain and select cuts from Iberico pigs.”
A Phoenix native, Chef Figueroa was Executive Chef at ETTA, from Michelin star chef Danny Grant. Prior to that he was the Executive Chef who opened Renata’s Hearth at the Arizona Biltmore. Chef Figueroa honed his culinary skills at other top Phoenix restaurants including Café Monarch, Tarbell’s and Chicago’s Michelin star-rated Boka. While he has worked in illustrious kitchens, Chef Figueroa credits his mom for his love of cooking.
Chef de Cuisine Jesus Figueroa
“My mother has been a huge influence on my cooking,” he said. “She taught me to appreciate the finer things in life when it came to food, but still indulge in adventurous eating and stay curious about my cooking. She is my biggest fan and harshest critic, and that has been extremely important to my cooking.”
Another strong influence on Chef Figueroa’s cuisine are his many travels. Figueroa, who speaks three languages, started traveling at age 16 and hasn’t stopped.
“The best part about traveling as a chef has been finding out about cool techniques and ingredients that are often left out of cookbooks and cooking shows because of their simplistic nature, but these end up impacting my food the most,” he said.
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TASTE OF TALAVERA
The Spanish flair of Talavera envelopes guests from the moment of arrival with the artwork leading to the restaurant. Inside, the space is warm with blue-gray walls, heavy deep red curtains, a wood beam ceiling and wrought iron candle chandeliers. I love the rich décor, but it’s the view out the unadorned back wall of windows that steals the show as the sun is setting in bursts of oranges and pinks over Pinnacle Peak.
Because there is a bit of a chill in the air, my husband and I opt to sit inside, rather than on the expansive patio. Upon sitting down at Talavera, we’re greeted with a complimentary pour of cava to welcome us while we peruse the menu.
With eyes bigger than our stomachs, we decided to share a few appetizers. Our waiter tells us that the Pulpo Clasico featuring grilled Spanish octopus, cippolini, crushed marbled potatoes and Mexican onion is the most popular, (and it’s fantastic) but it’s the Txakoli & Kombu Cured Tuna Mojama that blows us away. The sashimi-style tuna is melt-in-your-mouth good, which would already make me a fan, but it’s the unexpected pickled strawberries paired with it that elevate this dish into one of the best appetizers I’ve had in the last year.
Talavera bills itself as a Spanish steakhouse so my carnivore-loving husband couldn’t resist trying the 8-ounce Beef Tenderloin served with a sideboard of different flavors and sauces including chimichurri, Himalayan Sea salt, dried mushrooms and classic steak sauce. With a side of Raclette Potatoes, which he said reminded him of growing up in Switzerland, he was in heaven.
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I was torn between trying the Paella Vegana, since I remembered how well Talavera makes paella and a vegetarian version sounded intriguing, but ultimately, I couldn’t pass up the scallops and I’m glad I didn’t. The three perfectly cooked, cepe dusted jumbo scallops with pickled chanterelle mushrooms on a bed of corn celery root cream was delectable. Scallops are tricky to get right, and Chef Figueroa nailed it.
Both dishes were enhanced with a 2018 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley that managed to work well for the two diverse flavor profiles.
Despite being stuffed, we couldn’t pass up the Cinnamon Churros with a warm chocolate dipping sauce that Chef sent out to end the meal.
For a taste of Spain with the stunning desert landscape of Arizona as a backdrop, make sure Talavera is on your 2023 dining lineup.