Driving Success – Airpark execs on what they drive and what drives them

Family recipe for style, speed

familyInterview by Kimberly Hundley • Photo by Mark Susan

Leading the imaginative culinary experience at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is Executive Chef Chris Masco. With 20 years dedicated to diverse culinary traditions, Masco heads a team of nearly 100 members in servicing all 10 dining establishments at the resort and oversees all banquet events at the venue’s 200,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Masco transferred to the Westin’s Scottsdale resort two years ago. Shortly after moving his wife and two kids to the Boulders area by Cave Creek, he decided to purchase his dream car in sparkling-crystal red.

How did the Grand Sport Corvette become your ideal vehicle?

My dad had a Corvette, and it was always my dream to buy one too. When I was younger, I had the ’85 Camaro Z28 iRoc. I was 18 when I bought it, and it got me into a lot of trouble. I put it away for a while and bought a truck … but I still have it. One day my son, who is 10 years old now, will have the Z28—as long as he drives well for the first year he has a license.

How many miles have you put on your baby since you bought it in January?

So far, 2,500. If there is even a chance of rain it doesn’t come out. It stays in the garage. I always put the best gas in there, change the oil when needed and wash it every week.

What music do you listen to in the Corvette?

Everything from dance techno to ’80s stuff to Metallica. My wife is from Ireland, so of course U2 is her favorite band, and I listen to that. She also likes Madonna, but that doesn’t play in the car.

As executive chef, you’ve said your day on the property starts at 6:30 a.m. and wraps up between 7:30 and 8 in the evening. What does a typical morning look like for you?

I always say every day is a new day; you never know what’s going to hit you. But typically in the morning, I walk our 11 restaurants, which includes our 200,000 square feet of banquet space. Nellie Cashman’s is our main breakfast restaurant, and that’s usually the first place I go. I’ll check with the sous chefs to make sure we’re staffed up, and check with my purchaser to make sure everything hit the docks right. Usually by then, my executive steward comes in and we’ll see how his staff is for the day. Then at 9 a.m., I review all the events we have for the next two days, and then it pretty much rolls into lunch production. I’ll go to J.Swilling’s, our pool restaurant, then out to Brittlebush, which is our country club. Then I check on Nellie Cashman’s … and then off to banquets again. I spend the rest of the [pre-dinner day] checking and writing emails and trying to stay away from Human Resources [laughs].

How much of your job involves actual cooking these days?

Very little, maybe 5 percent. At home, I’ll make fresh pasta and stews and cook on the grill or use the smoker. I hate to have all that cleanup.

What is the biggest challenge in heading up the food operations for such a large resort?

Not seeing your family. You spend all your holidays here. Not doing the things you could with your kids.

Best part?

Seeing the smiles on people’s faces from the food. Also the teamwork it takes with the kitchen—the stewarding of people, and the servers working as one team to get that food out.

You’ve done some segments with local TV channels. What’s the secret to cooking on air?

What you have to do is forget the cameras are there. At first, I would stare at the cameras and forget what I was doing. Bending your knees helps more than anything; it gets you comfortable. You have to know you have a four-minute segment, prepare for it and practice a couple of times before going on air. The hard part is the talking part.

If you were taking the Corvette out for a dream picnic, what would go in the basket?

A bottle of Italian red wine (a Borolo usually), a porterhouse steak from Master Purveyors in New York, a bag of TAYTO chips (potato chips from Ireland), asparagus, sea salt, Caesar salad, and chocolate fudge cake.

If someone hasn’t experienced the food at the Westin Kierland yet, what would you recommend they try?

For lunch, I recommend they go to Brittlebush and either get the Phoenix slider (shaved beef, roasted poblano peppers, carmelized onions and pepperjack cheese) or the fish tacos (tempura-battered mahi mahi with jalapeno coleslaw). For dinner, I love Deseo’s Millionaire Taco and the Beef Churrasco. Also for dinner, try Nellie Cashman’s Green Chili Griddle Cakes appetizer and the Arizona Stir-Fry entree, which integrates the restaurant’s mining theme with some Chinese influences (many of the cooks for the mining camps were Chinese). Stir-fry ingredients include chayote squash, snow peas, baby corn, peppers, mesquite-smoked potato gnocci and a ginger tomatillo glaze, and it can be topped with shrimp. Mmmm, I’m getting hungry!


Feature_PartsScorePositive, personalized, passionate  German automotive services

Interview by Kimberly Hundley • Photo by Tim Sealy

Parts Score is a complete European automotive performance shop established in 2010. The shop is run by husband-and-wife team Jason and Leah Amiot, who say they “live and breathe everything European automotive.” Jason, who answers our questions below, has more than 15 years experience in the industry, using his expertise to build and modify powerful and reliable performance cars. Leah runs the office with their dog, Mr. Bentley, who acts as mascot. The shop specializes in Audi, BMW and Volkswagen, and offers highest-quality OEM replacement parts, aftermarket performance parts as well as in-house custom fabrication. Services range from preventative and regularly scheduled maintenance to high-performance upgrades.

How did you come to specialize in German vehicles?

We have a great appreciation for German engineering, classic design and motorsports heritage. This appreciation started at a very young age and influenced my decision heavily when it came to picking out my first car. I decided upon a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and never looked back! The automotive hooks were in deep, and ever since the age of 15, I’ve worked in the industry. I saw a need in the marketplace for a quality German automotive shop that offered the highest-quality service at a fair price. A strong passion for German automotive engineering races through my blood, and I want to be able to share that with everyone. Thus Parts Score was born!

Why did you select the Airpark for your base?

The Airpark is a Mecca for everything automotive. Plus, there is such a sense of community here that we had to be a part of this neighborhood. People in this area share the same respect for German engineering, classic design and high-quality work that we do. It seemed only natural to be in the same location where our customers live and work.

Tell us about your recent expansion.

We don’t just work in the Airpark, we live in the neighborhood and absolutely love it, so our sense of community is that much stronger. We experienced a tremendous amount of growth in the last year since moving to the Airpark from Tempe. Expansion was the next logical step. We don’t plan on moving anytime soon, so we are excited to keep planting roots at our current location.

What are these vehicles in the photo?

The cars we chose to be pictured with are a BMW M3 and an Audi S4. The BMW M3, one of our favorite personal cars, represents the performance side of our business. This car is supercharged with upgraded suspension, exhaust, wheels and many more modifications. We offer performance upgrades ranging from lighting to forced induction and custom air suspension. The Audi S4, also highly modified by our shop, represents the maintenance side of the business. Today this car is in for a routine oil change, brake service and new tires.

Why is your beagle, Mr. Bentley, a fixture in the shop?

We pride ourselves on being a family-owned and -operated business, and it was only natural that Mr. Bentley be a part of it. He has been around cars since he was a puppy and enjoys entertaining our customers. We get a kick out of seeing the smiles on everyone’s face as Mr. Bentley greets them at the front door. He exudes what we are all about: having a positive and personal experience.

What are Parts Score’s goals for the coming year?

To reach out to new customers who are in need of a trustworthy German automotive shop to call their new home.

ProMotorsports puts players in the driver’s seat

feat-driveInterview by Kimberly Hundley • Photo by Sam Nalven

ProMotorsports has spent more than two decades building custom vehicles for professional athletes, top executives, companies and automotive manufacturers, as well as hunting down hard-to-find models, finding buyers, and much more. The company’s creations have been featured for 20 consecutive years at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the premier automotive specialty-products trade event in the world. When companies such as General Motors, Lexus, Toyota and Sony are asking you to customize their vehicles to inspire the imaginations of buyers, you’re doing something very right. ProMotorsports has locations in six states, with headquarters in North Scottsdale, home to founder Jim Lewis and his family.

In your line of work, you can drive almost anything you want for as long as you’re feeling it. Why are you behind the wheel of a Range Rover Autobiography this month?

I like it because it’s rare; there’s not a lot of them out there. It came from the factory with the red interior, and we did the wheels and the grill.

What was your first car as a teenager?

An S-10 Chevy pickup. That tells you how old I am. I grew up in Oklahoma, and most of the time I drive trucks like the Ford Raptor.

How did you wind up working specifically with pro athletes?

It kind of happened by accident. I was at a Kansas City Chiefs game about 20 years ago, I’d parked next to player parking, and a gentleman about my size came up and told me he liked the Tahoe I was driving. He said, “Hey, I’d like you to build me one.” I said, “Sure, call me.” And the guy turned out to be Jerome Woods, all-pro safety for the Chiefs. Then [a couple of other players ordered customizations], and it kind of snowballed and word went from locker room to locker room.

Was the Tahoe an example of your professional work, or were you even in the car business then?

No, it was my private vehicle that I had done myself. I was still playing basketball [in overseas leagues] after college.

What sparked your interest in cars?

My dad, who was a college coach, liked cars and always had some around.

Other than accommodating intense travel schedules and being respectful of privacy, what has made ProMotorsports sought-after by pro players?

A lot of people see a player and will want to charge them more than they should because of their paycheck. We would rather take care of them at a good rate and have them tell everyone in the locker room about us. I’d rather make a dollar on a million people than a hundred thousand on one guy. We also stand by our work. If something goes wrong, most shops will say come back and we’ll fix it. If I sell something to a Boston Celtics player, for example, and something goes wrong, I put someone on a plane to fix it, and we just eat that loss because it’s our fault.

How many professional athletes has your company worked with?

As of today, 382. There is no way that we would have a player on every single active major league team (except hockey) unless we’re doing a good enough job for them to spread the word. For instance, Jonny Gomes of the Oakland A’s has sent us five or six of his teammates.

What is your involvement with SEMA this November, and what does that kind of exposure do for your cred?

We’re taking 11 cars … When companies like Lexus are giving us cars and saying take this car and customize it so we can show people throughout the year what they can do to individualize their own car, they are saying we are someone who can build for them better than they can build in-house. That goes a long way toward establishing validity with the players.

Give us an idea what kind of clients you’re talking to a daily basis. Right now, it’s 4:30 p.m. on a Friday. What does your call list look like so far?

[Looks through phone.] Chris Paul with the Clippers; the agent for Brian Wilson (Los Angeles Dodgers); we talked to BFGoodrich; we talked to the Raptor group from Ford Motor Company; I talked to Mr. Jonny Gomes; I talked to Jon Lester with the Oakland A’s; Eric Gordon with the New Orleans Pelicans; TSW Alloy Wheels; and we talked to BMF Wheels; Rigid Lights here in town; we talked to an NFL agent asking about a couple of his players’ cars; we talked to Russell Westbrook, a guard with the Oklahoma Thunder; and we also talked to Isaiah Thomas and P.J. Tucker with the Suns.

Do you think having experience as a pro baller gives you unique insight into your clients’ needs?

I don’t know if it gives us insight, but I saw how some people were taking advantage.

At this point, do you ever get fan fever when you meet certain athletes?

Not really. Another reason that the guys work with us a lot is that we’re not too starstruck. And because we’ve been doing this for a while, we oftentimes meet the kids before they get here. Like Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers); we knew him in college before he got here.

How much do you enjoy the sports aspect of your work?

I kind of have the greatest job on the planet because it’s my job to work with cool cars and to go to sporting events and meet with clients.

How does Barrett-Jackson and the rest of January’s auto-auction week in Scottsdale impact ProMotorsports?

Barrett-Jackson is a great event because car guys come from all over the world, and a lot of our clients have us prep a car they want to sell or have us deal with issues that come up after they buy one. When (PGA golfer) Bubba Watson bought the Dukes of Hazzard car (the General Lee) at auction in 2012, we got it going so he could drive it to the Phoenix Open. (There were no lights, so rewiring was required; wouldn’t always start due to transmission problem; carburetor needed to be rebuilt; exhaust was loose.) There is not a lot of time between those two events, but we work fast—another of our specialties.

What brought you to North Scottsdale?

When my wife and I were living in Kansas City, I was coming out here every year for spring training because we have so many baseball players. She pointed out I was spending more on travel and dining than a mortgage would cost—and she added that she didn’t like snow. I said, “Oh, do you want to move?” That was about five years ago.

Who owns that stunning 1964 Cadillac Coupe DeVille in your showroom?

We built it for Brian Wilson (relief pitcher for Los Angeles Dodgers) and now we’re selling it for him. Because Dodgers-player parking is where fans can see it, the car is tied to him—it’s become recognizable, so it’s time for him to move into something else.

Describe Scottsdale’s ProMotorsports team.

We do everything in-house except for paint. There are nine guys here, and everybody has their own specialty. Fortunately, I’m not very good at any of them. If you’re the best person in the room or the smartest person in the room, you’re not in the right room. You need to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you or more skilled than you in order to be successful.

Did you ever think you’d be at the top of this industry, working with such elite car clientele?

No. I still view it as the guys who were doing it in my garage, just me and my buddies. It still feels like that … until the bills come in. [laughs]

An appraising eye

elanaInterview by Kimberly Hundley
Photo by Tim Sealy

In 1992, artist Elena Kohn immigrated to the United States from Russia, eventually landing in Scottsdale, where she founded Art Fortune, an online resource for buying and selling art and luxury items. Collectors use the site—which is translated into 20 languages and visited by more than 1.5 million people every month—to display their art or other high-end items to a global market. Kohn, a graduate of the Art University in Moscow, personally provides appraisal services, traveling the world to help clients buy and sell art and collectibles, arrange private sales and make introductions to auction houses such as Christie’s and Fortuna. Recently, a production company shot a pilot for a reality show featuring the vivacious, Russian-accented artist/appraiser and is shopping the concept to networks.

What attracted you to this car?

I bought it a few years ago. I kept it because I love it. It’s youthful, and it’s convenient for me because I work with collectors who have art and antiquities, and at times I have to move items from place to place.

Haven’t you been tempted to trade her in for a newer model?

Almost like an animal, you cannot just get rid of it because it gets older. That’s how I feel about the car. The car becomes your friend, and all the fixing you do over the years—we kind of become connected, especially in Arizona, where you drive all the time. I feel comfortable. I feel safe in my car. I know it so well, and I travel a lot.

What was your first vehicle?

A car was a luxury for Russians. I didn’t buy one until I immigrated to the United States 20-something years ago. It was Volkswagen Rabbit.

Tell us about Art Fortune.

You know, I started it in 2008 as an art website but realized the same type of client who buys art buys truly high-end cars and other luxury items, so we expanded it. One of the services we offer is high-end appraising, catering to people who like to collect various items. So I travel all the time, because sometimes clients call me to appraise an estate or they want to sell something, or get an appraisal for insurance, or they want to buy a piece … I am very fortunate. I have clients all over the world

Do you still paint?

I actually do when I have time. Art definitely is my passion.

We googled you and found a trailer for a reality show. Tell us more!

About a year ago, we decided to do a little pilot that is based on what I do—working with all my clients and all the drama that comes with it. I was lucky because I was invited by a production company in Los Angeles. All I can say is it’s in the works and we already have a number of networks who are interested.

In the YouTube teaser, you say, “I’m Baroness Elena von Kohn, Russian royalty living in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’m an international art dealer. My clients: the rich and famous. From Moscow to Manhattan, from London to Los Angeles, I love finding lost art treasures and turning them into fortunes for my clients! It’s true, I also love the finer things in life; that’s why my BFF is my jeweler! But for me, it’s not about the money … art is my passion.” Are you really a baroness?

I am, I am. This is a story for another article. [laughs] The production company said they might or might not use it.

What kinds of things do you appraise?

My specialties are art and antiques, but I can appraise pretty much anything. I just finished appraising a classic Rolls Royce my good friend has and wants to donate to one of the charities here. Of course, I went to classes and courses to get my certification (from the Appraisers Guild of America). But for 20 years, I’ve been working in arts and antiques. My family came from a line of big art collectors, so I was in this world since I was very little.

How important are relationships in the world of art collecting?

It’s a small group of collectors and they know each other. My business is all about word of mouth, reputation and working with people. After 20 years, I developed that and have a lot of clients. I’m known as one of the leading experts in (antique) European and Russian art.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

The main challenge is to work with clients. It’s not about the item; it’s always about the clients. Sometimes my clients think they have treasures and I have to find a way—a very ethical way—to break the news and tell them the little value. And sometimes it’s other way around, and the value is so much greater than what was expected. I always hope I will find a treasure for them, but you never know what to expect, which is why this business is so interesting!


Flying with the perfect fit

jetlinxInterview by Kimberly Hundley
Photo by Sam Nalven

Jet Linx Aviation is a jet card and aircraft management company with 10 base partnership locations nationwide, including one at Scottsdale Airport. Jet card programs allow people to buy travel in hourly increments (25- to 100-hour segments). Members also can buy Jet Linx’s Longitude Jet Card, which offers a one-time enrollment fee and unlimited pay-by-the-hour flights. Jon Hulburd founded the Scottsdale base late in 2012, immediately bringing on Jon Gilbert to head up sales.

What drew you to the Lexus hybrid?

I have mainly owned SUVs in the past, but I decided the weekly gas bill of $70-plus was getting a little absurd. With my commute, I wanted a hybrid that didn’t look or feel like one. The CT200H is the perfect fit of cost and gas mileage combined with a sporty look and feel. I love that I can go about 10 days between fill-ups, and it only costs me about $27 to do it.

Is this your dream car?

No, but it does make sense for right now. I’d love to own a Tesla Model S someday.

How does the Lexus compare to the first car you ever owned?

It’s a dream car compared to that first one—a used Infiniti G20 that had nothing but issues from the day we bought it. By the time we got rid of it, the maintenance bills were more than we paid for it!

What is the jet we see here, and how does it fit into the fleet your clients have to choose from?

The aircraft is a Citation II—a light jet. We have the ability to match the aircraft to each client’s needs for a given trip. We can provide light, mid, super-mid or heavy jets, even turboprops if the client desires. Our clients are not locked into a specific airplane, or size. They tell us their needs, and we provide it for them, guaranteed.

How much do you fly yourself?

Not as often as I used to. Once I decided that I wanted to be in business aviation rather than fly for a living, my personal flying dropped off significantly since I wasn’t trying to build hours for a career. Jet Linx keeps me pretty busy, but I do try to rent aircraft and grab the “$100 hamburger” every now and then.

You graduated in 2005 from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor’s in aviation management. What attracted you to this industry?

I’ve known since I was 12 years old that I wanted to be involved in aviation and where I wanted to go to school. My uncle took me for a flight in his airplane, and I was instantly hooked. The University of North Dakota has the best aviation program in the United States hands down, so it was an easy choice when looking at schools.

As director of sales, what is a typical day like for you?

We make ourselves available 24/7, so each day brings about new experiences and new challenges. We have flights going in and out of our private facility every day, so along with my team, our day revolves around providing our clients with the highest level of customer service for each and every trip. We really try to make the experience as individualized and special as possible. When I’m not greeting flights and speaking with current clients, I’m working on building relationships with aircraft owners in the Valley as well as those potentially interested in joining our Jet Card program.

What kinds of inquiries do you get from Scottsdale-area companies and executives?

They are looking to us to be a time machine. They need to hit multiple meetings in multiple locations in as short of a time span as possible. What would take three days flying commercial, we can accommodate in a day.

Clients must have high expectations, but what surprises them most about the Jet Linx experience?

How we can provide a guaranteed airplane at a guaranteed price with a guaranteed highest standard of safety while also giving each flight 5-star service. Most people are also surprised that our pricing is typically 15 percent to 55 percent lower than our competition.

How is the upcoming Super Bowl impacting Jet Linx?

With 10 locations nationwide, Jet Linx clients from all over the country will be coming in. Beyond that, we have started fielding inquiries from across North America to provide our services for the event. It’s one of the busiest times of the year for us, so having the Super Bowl in our backyard will make it more challenging, but we have the team in place to handle it and are looking forward to it.