Kitchen Doors: Let’s Eat!
For Your Valentine: Honeymoon Sweets
Honeymoon Sweets opened in 1996 and is celebrating 25 years of business in 2021. The popular Tempe bakery is owned by husband-and-wife bakers Tim and Joan O’Connor, who met at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. After working on the East Coast, they moved to Arizona, raised three children and have embraced the Tempe community.
“We love living and owning a business in Tempe,” said Tim. “It’s a progressive town and a cool place to live with a mix of great people. We’ve created a nice community and friendships here over the years. It is important to us to support local business, and we work with local vendors whenever we can.”
Honeymoon Sweets, which has 20 employees, is known for wedding cakes, as well as its popular petite sweets like fruit tarts and eclairs. Their baked goods can also be found at Whole Foods.
“Customers like the variety and freshness, and appreciate the exceptional ingredients and quality,” Tim said. “We make everything from scratch, and people can taste the difference.”
The O’Connors enjoy their work. “We love to contribute to celebrations at the best times in people’s lives as they build their families, from weddings and baptisms to birthdays, anniversaries and retirement,” said Tim.
As hotels and holidays are a major part of Honeymoon Sweets’ business, it has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, but Tim is optimistic for the future. “We have had tough times, and it’s been a test for all of us, but we will be here and continue to be a part of this great community,” he said.
For more information, visit honeymoonsweets.com.
Caring Chef: Tommy D’Ambrosio
Chef Tommy D’Ambrosio’s love of cooking began at a young age, inspired by his grandmother. After attending the Culinary Institute of America, he returned to his hometown of Phoenix to open Aioli Gourmet Burgers with two of his childhood friends.
Aioli Gourmet Burgers started with a food truck in 2013, opened a restaurant in Phoenix in 2016, and a second location in 2020, as well as a location inside Fry’s Marketplace in Litchfield Park. The restaurant group also owns Modern Tortilla and Oak Wood-Fire Pizza food trucks.
A Food Network “Chopped” champion and winner of several local awards for his creative burgers, D’Ambrosio is dedicated to giving back to the community. “We’ve worked with many local organizations. A few close to my heart are Valley Youth Theatre, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Center. As someone who grew up in Arizona, I benefited from having access to youth programs like Valley Youth Theatre. I learned a lot and gained the confidence I needed to become the person I am today. By supporting these programs, I know we are making a difference in the next generation,” D’Ambrosio said.
Aioli Gourmet Burgers stepped up its community efforts during the pandemic. “We’ve been doing a lot of pivoting, strategizing and adapting our business to accommodate the needs of our customers and to support our community,” D’Ambrosio said. “We started offering home delivery of bulk meals that organically grew into a first-responder meal kit program where customers could donate money to purchase meals for the brave men and women working the front lines. We had no idea it would be such a success. We have been able to donate over 5,000 meals to frontline workers and those in need. We’re so thankful to still be in business, to keep our employees working and to be able to make a difference.”
To learn more, go to aioliburger.com.
New in Town: Character
Character opened in downtown Phoenix in November with distinctive fine dining, inventive cocktails and an impressive team behind the concept. The owners are Peter Kasperski, an established leader in the Arizona restaurant scene known for opening Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz in Scottsdale, and Richie Moe, one of the city’s top mixologists. Chef Justin “Red” Hauska has worked at high-end Valley restaurants, including Binkley’s and Kai at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.
“Chef Red creates quintessential modern American cuisine with various influences,” Kasperski said. “He respects the history of fine dining but likes to experiment with different techniques. He wants every plate to be simple yet spectacular with different flavors and textures, highlighting seasonal ingredients.”
Character’s menu includes charred octopus with chorizo, venison with squash, lamb with smoky eggplant and an incredible croissant bread pudding from Country Velador of Super Chunk Sweets & Treats in Scottsdale, who formerly worked with Kasperski.
Cocktail concoctions include Spot O’ Tea, Guvnor with gin, English Breakfast tea and lemon oil, and the Foam Fashioned with bourbon and orange curaçao.
Kasperski is excited about the restaurant, which is in a 1920s house with a large patio. “It’s great to see downtown growing and be a part of that energy,” he said.
There are big plans for Alias, the bar located behind the restaurant, with a menu featuring approachable molecular mixology and gastronomy. The restaurant has also hosted sommelier showdown wine-pairing dinners.
With 40 years of restaurant experience, Kasperski is passionate about the business. “We are in the entertainment industry,” he said. “We are here to create memorable experiences for our guests.”
For more information, visit characterphx.com.
Waste Not: A Community Partnership
Waste Not’s mission to reduce food waste and deliver food to those in need takes several dedicated volunteers and generous community partners, corporations and foundations. The organization was founded 30 years ago, and in 2020, Waste Not diverted more than 3 million meals from landfills and delivered them directly to people in need.
“We’re proud to be a valued community resource that food businesses can rely on to reduce food waste and feed the one in six Arizonans who experience food insecurity,” said executive director Kate Thoene.
Waste Not’s team of professional and volunteer drivers collects fresh food daily and delivers it to more than 65 Valley nonprofits that provide critical community services, including homeless shelters, transitional housing, senior facilities, preschools, after-school programs, rehabilitation centers and food pantries for distribution to the people who need it.
Waste Not partners with more than 70 food businesses, including grocery stores, catering companies, event venues, resorts and restaurants, including Starbucks, QuikTrip, Sprinkles Cupcakes and many more.
“Restaurants and other food businesses can play an important role in contributing to our community’s most basic needs and your neighbors need food now more than ever,” Thoene said.
Learn more at wastenotaz.org.