By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Mark Morgan
James Fox is the co-owner and executive chef of Vecina, which opened in September in the heart of Arcadia and offers modern American dishes with Latin twists.
What inspired you to cook?
I played football since age 7. Once in high school, it took a lot of food to keep me fueled up for practice and games. Since both my parents worked, I started playing around with recipes to satisfy my growing appetite, eventually cooking for my entire team.
How did you get your professional start?
Senior year I had a decision to make: college football or culinary school. I hung up my cleats and enrolled at Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 2004.
Tell us about your journey to Vecina:
It’s a laundry list that all started at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Phoenix in 2004. Over the next 12 years, I would hone my craft at Zinc Bistro and The Mission – through both of these I met my mentor in Matt Carter – Milagro Grill, Buck & Rider and Southern Rail, among others. I would even relocate to Mexico briefly to serve as a private chef. In 2016, I moved to New York, where I launched a successful food truck. Along the way, I won the Cooking Channel’s Taco Wars in 2013.
How did you make your way back to Arizona?
I sold the food truck in 2018. While planning my return to Phoenix, our location for Vecina (then Kitchen 56) hit the market. I moved back in January, and my partners and I bought it in February. Once we agreed on a new concept, we closed it over the summer to re-imagine it as Vecina.
What can guests expect at Vecina?
Vegetables! We want to showcase them as more than just a side dish. Also expect small plates and shareables, and look for some heat, thanks to Latin-inspired ingredients. Oh, and don’t miss my Pork Belly PB&J Taco with tomato jam and peanuts.
Tell us something surprising about you:
I am a 6-foot, 4-inch, 300-pound man with two 5-pound miniature Chihuahuas, Stella and Piper.Vecina, 3433 N. 56th St.,Phoenix; 602.675.2000; www.vecinaphx.com.