By Octavio Serrano
Alex Robinson has always had a passion for the culinary arts. Now he’s bringing his seafood knowledge from California to Royal Palms Resort and Spa’s T. Cook’s.
As executive chef, the young culinary master focuses on delivering an array of fresh and prime ingredients that are customized to the Valley.
“I want to push the boundaries at T. Cook’s and create inspired dishes where every element on the plate, even the garnish, is interesting, compelling and exceptional,” Robinson says.
“You’ll see seafood options, local ingredients that support our Arizona farmers, and nearly 80% of the menu is naturally gluten free. Expect beautiful presentation, interesting flavor profiles and cuisine that are rooted in T. Cook’s Mediterranean values, but with a heightened approach.”
T. Cook’s has been part of the Valley’s culinary scene for more than two decades and it is ready to continue to surprise its guests.
Wagyu Snake River Farms striploin ($56) is displayed with Maine lobster risotto, grilled asparagus and housemade steak sauce.
“We do our brand-new lobster risotto with grilled asparagus and our housemade steak sauce that takes three days to mix,” Robinson says. “We take pride in our housemade steak sauce.”
The herb-crusted sea bass ($44) is one of the chef’s priorities, with its ancient grain risotto, avocado puree and pickled Fresno chili citrus-honey reduction.
Guests can even get hands-on experiences at T. Cook’s. The hot stone ($23) comes with American Wagyu beef or pacific ahi tuna and youzu kosho ponzu, cilantro scallion crunchy chili garlic.
“You get to sear that at the table on a 900-degree hot stone. It’s kind of a fun interactive dish for the guests to play with at the table,” Robinson says.
A California native, Robinson has paid close attention to the seafood side of the menu and he is excited to showcase T. Cook’s octopus dishes.
“We get his premium Spanish-styled octopus, which is a jumbo tentacle with a black garbanzo bean hummus that we make,” Robinson says. “It’s such a beautiful dish and one of my favorites.”
The grilled Spanish octopus ($15) is a highlight with black garbanzo bean puree paprika salsa verde and lemon olive oil.
Robinson has dreamed of working for a team like the one found at T. Cook’s.
“I started as a dishwasher at 14 years old and one day, a guy called off who was on the deep fryer and that was my introduction to the kitchen,” Robinson says. “By the time I was 17 years old, I was running the restaurant. It was fun to get the exposure because it was something that I truly loved.”
He gets his passion from his father, who was his family’s chef.
“My dad was a very strong cook,” he says. “He was a jack of all trades, master of none, but he was good at whatever he put his mind to.”
Robinson studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale before moving out of the state to work at places like The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole.
He enjoys the freedom he has at T. Cook’s. Robinson says the general manager, Carlos Morales, encourages the staff to be creative.
“We’re really capable of doing whatever fits our needs for our clientele and I really appreciate that true value of not being stuck to a corporate standpoint,” he says.
What really inspires Robinson is adapting the menu for the restaurant’s customers because everyone is different.
“Being in this modern world, you can’t just be focused on one thing because guests come in and a lot of them are vegan, gluten free, dairy free. They require all these modifications,” Robinson says. “We have a staple menu, but the best part of it is when they come in and we get to create a dish for them.” ν
5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.808.0766, tcooksphoenix.com.