By Alison Bailin Batz / Photo by Mark Morgan
Severo Hernandez heads Sierra Bonita Grill, where he is focused on reflecting the diverse cuisine of the Southwest with a modern approach and flavor-forward ingredients.
How did you get your start in cooking?
A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, I moved to Los Angeles in 1994 at 16. My first job was as a dishwasher in an Iranian restaurant, where I eventually worked my way up to line cook. While I’ve had no training in a classroom, I’ve studied extensively under chefs across Los Angeles as well as here in the Valley to hone and perfect my craft – and I still learn something new each day.
How did you make your way to Sierra Bonita Grill?
I moved to Phoenix in 1995 and first worked at a Cajun restaurant before earning a position at longtime Scottsdale mainstay Sassi in 2001. There, I worked in several areas of the kitchen, learning to make pasta and wood-fired pizzas, among other things. By 2006, I was ready to take the next step and joined Sierra Bonita as a line cook. Over the past 13 years, I’ve served in numerous roles, and in 2011 was named executive chef.
What makes Sierra Bonita special?
We’ve always stayed true to celebrating the history of Arizona. The restaurant is named after Arizona’s oldest continuous family-run ranch: Sierra Bonita Ranch in Wilcox. Our connection to the state’s history is evident throughout our decor, food and drinks.
Tell us about the menu…
Recently, we upgraded the menu for the first time in eight years to authentically reflect a fusion of Southern Mexican and ranch-style cuisine. We use a lot of chilies, sauces, and other ingredients commonly used in my native Oaxaca, but now we also have an “out on the range” menu as well, focusing on rustic, cowboy cuisine.
What would readers be surprised to know about you?
I’ve eaten ants and grasshoppers! Chapulines (grasshoppers) and chicatanas (flying ants) – as I call them – are commonly eaten in Oaxaca.
Sierra Bonita Grill, 6933 N. 7th St., Phoenix; 602.264.0700; www.sierrabonitagrill.com.