Kitchen Doors: Caring Chef Jennifer Russo, Café Allegro Reopens at the MIM and New in Town

Caring Chef: Jennifer Russo

Supporting the community for more than 20 years 

Jennifer Russo has been in kitchens for as long as she can remember. “As a toddler, I watched my great-grandmother cook, and when I was 16, I got a job at Lewis Stevens Catering,” she said. “I continued to work in kitchens from the Scottsdale Princess to the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale.” 

Inspired by her Italian grandmother and Julia Child, Russo attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She returned to Phoenix and started Jennifer’s Catering in 1997. She opened the Market by Jennifer’s in 2013. 

“I love to push myself,” Russo said. “It’s very important to me to put a fresh twist on the classics with seasonal ingredients and to create dishes that are out of the box.” 

In her tenure on the Arizona culinary scene, Russo has been involved in several charitable endeavors, including the James Beard Foundation’s AZWomenInFood program, which brings together some of the state’s most celebrated female chefs and restaurateurs. “It is an amazing platform to work with other female chefs and owners to help navigate the changes in our industry and collaborate. To bring awareness and support one another is a gift,” she said. 

In November, Russo is participating in the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, which features top chefs from across the Valley raising funds for the March of Dimes’ mission to support the health of all mothers and babies. “I am honored to be included with such a great group of chefs and raise money for what is most important to me, which is children and families,” she said. 

Supporting local suppliers has always been important to Russo. In her restaurant and catering business, Russo showcases local vendors and seasonal menus. “I believe we have to support each other,” she said. “This is a hard business, and we do it because we love it. I support the community the best I can by using produce from local farms, as well as products from Noble Bread, Sonoran Pasta Co., Tracy Dempsey Originals, Hayden Flour Mills, Southwest Mushrooms and many more.” 

Russo is proud to be part of the Valley’s burgeoning culinary community and has witnessed its evolution over the past two decades. “The best thing that is happening is that local small businesses are here and representing,” she said. “Great food is being made by great chefs all over the Valley.” 

For more information, visit themarketbyjennifer.com

Café Allegro Reopens at the Musical Instrument Museum 

Enjoy seasonal dishes with global influences  

The award-winning Café Allegro at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix has reopened in partnership with hospitality management company Guest Services, Inc. Executive chef James Moran is introducing a menu of seasonal dishes with a range of rotating selections with global influences and local flavors. 

Café Allegro’s menu includes sandwiches, salads and fresh grilled plates, from green chile pork to a Caribbean chopped salad with crispy pork belly and jerk vinaigrette. Sandwiches include a classic pressed Cuban with shredded pork, ham, Swiss cheese and Dijon mustard. Entrees include a vegetarian zucchini noodle
pasta primavera and pan-seared blue crab cakes with a Cajun remoulade. 

The new partnership with GSI expands MIM’s catering and event services for conferences, social gatherings and weddings. MIM’s distinctive architecture, desert foliage and 40,000 square feet of versatile event spaces make the museum a unique and beautiful venue for a variety of occasions. 

In October, MIM began service at its Beats Coffee Bar, offering coffee, espresso and tea drinks, along with house-made pastries and other breakfast offerings, lunch options, wine, beer and seasonal treats.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome museum guests and the Phoenix community back to Café Allegro for a memorable in-person dining experience,” said April Salomon, executive director of MIM. “Our refreshed culinary offerings are reason enough to visit MIM and will further enhance the MIM experience through our innovative exhibitions and programs. It has been a pleasure to see and taste the new dishes as the menu has come together. The food is a delicious complement to the global collections and perspectives presented throughout our galleries.” 

Café Allegro is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is not required to dine at Café Allegro. 

To learn more, visit mimdining.org

New in Town: Terra and Skysill at Westin Tempe

New hotel brings local flavors 

As Tempe’s culinary options continue to expand, the new Westin Tempe hotel on Mill Avenue is bringing a sophisticated Southwestern restaurant and chic rooftop poolside lounge to the heart of Tempe. 

Located on the hotel’s ground floor, Terra Tempe Kitchen and Spirits highlights bold flavors and locally sourced ingredients. Popular dishes include Terra’s Hot Stone with thinly sliced Wagyu beef or Pacific ahi tuna, Sonoran Salad with compressed melons, jicama and tequila lime vinaigrette, cilantro-dusted Chilean sea bass with avocado crema and sweet corn pico, and filet mignon with lump crab mash and black truffle chimichurri.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Terra offers a warm, modern atmosphere with floor-to-ceiling windows and an expansive exhibition kitchen. 

The restaurant’s beverage program includes wine, Arizona beer and handcrafted cocktails featuring classic recipes with a local twist, like the Terra Mule with tequila, ginger beer and desert pear syrup, and the Greyhound to Tempe with gin, grapefruit juice and agave sage syrup. 

“Terra Tempe’s menu sets a new standard of elevated dining in Tempe with dishes that are deeply rooted in the culture of the Southwest yet enhanced with unexpected tastes in a way that captivates guests and keeps them intrigued,” said executive chef Alexander Robinson.

“Terra means ‘of the land,’ but to us, it means ‘of Tempe.’ We’re very proud to join the vibrant community downtown and to play a role in the neighborhood’s ever-evolving culinary identity.” 

Located on the hotel’s 18th floor, the open-air Skysill Rooftop Lounge offers a pool, jacuzzi, daybeds and cabanas, and beautiful mountain views. Skysill features a rotating menu of craft cocktails with local flair, like the Arizona Spritz made with Aperol, aloe liqueur and prosecco, and the Cactus Collins, made with Meyer lemon vodka and blue agave nectar. To complement the cocktails, guests can enjoy shareable plates and light bites. 

For more information, visit terratempe.comand skysillrooftop.com

About Shoshana Leon

Shoshana Leon is a culinary writer for Frontdoors Media and creator of Foodie Fo Sho.

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