By Sherry Jackson
Since coming on board in April, Don Stansell has been focusing on quality food and an enhanced guest experience in his new position as executive chef at Two Brothers Tap House & Brewery in Scottsdale.
“I like the feeling of the family-owned business atmosphere and camaraderie at Two Brothers,” Stansell says.” They’re also growing, and I like to think I might be an instrumental part of that. That’s the reward.”
So far, Stansell has been sourcing local ingredients, instituting proper techniques and cooking methods and building his core team at the craft brewery. Two Brothers has five restaurants- four in Illinois and the Scottsdale location.
Stansell’s 22-year culinary career has included stints at the Cherokee Nation Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Cherokee Yacht Club, Southern Hills Country Club and Lone Butte Casino.
Before joining Two Brothers, he was an executive sous chef at the Double Tree Resort by Hilton Worldwide.
Stansell began his career at a sports bar when he was a teenager. After that, he was a saucier in the U.S. Navy, cooking for foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and in the galley on base. After leaving the military, he formalized his education, attending Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Stansell also spent three years training under certified master chef, Fritz Gitschner.
“My background has shaped my experience in who I am today-the private resorts, the gaming resorts experience and traveling the world with the Navy,” Stansell says. “The first time I worked in a pantry and started building salads and desserts from scratch, I knew I really liked the kitchen feel. The reward for me is the satisfaction of the guest, knowing I was part of that. That was the drive.”
Stansell’s specialty is international cuisine such as South American, Latin and Peruvian dishes. “Seafood is always my favorite thing to prepare,” he says. “Seafood with a good Veracruz or a shrimp ponzu sauce are my go-to ingredients.”
He’s amassed a “couple hundred different recipes,” passed down from mentors. His favorite technique in the kitchen is braising smoking and curing. “It’s a lengthy process and there are a lot of steps involved. You have to have everything right-the dry rubs, the temperature and the process. It’s a delicate balance but when combined properly, you come up with this beautiful brined brisket or smoked pork butt.”
Patrons of Two Brothers can expect to see a new menu in January paired with the restaurants craft brewery offerings. Stansell also plans to add more smoked meats and barbecue dishes along with guest favorites such as avocado toast, hummus plates and charcuterie.
Creativity is Stansell’s No. 1 focus in the kitchen. He recently brought on a new sous chef and once he gets his core team in place they’ll drive preparation, menu and production changes. Stansell runs his kitchen by a mantra taught to him by one of his mentors, Michael Bujold, executive chef at the Shangri-La resort in Oklahoma.
“If the food you’re working with once had life in it, treat it as such and it will always be amazing.”
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