Tamara: Food isn't really cheap.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And educating them on why because these are ingredients that you can't just go buy at the grocery store. It's not mass produced. And a lot of care goes into every little part of it.

Speaker 3: You're listening to the Bar and Restaurant podcast where hospitality lovers come to listen and learn with expert David DeLorenzo.

Delo: All right. We are back with another podcast, Bar and Restaurant podcast. And I have a very special guest, Tamara Stanger.

Tamara: Special.

Delo: So special. Well, I've known you, I think we're going on like, probably, I mean, through the industry, we've known each other but ...

Tamara: A long time.

Delo: Yeah. But knowing you and us kind of being friendly towards each other on Instagram and enjoying what each other is doing, probably last three years or so?

Tamara: At least. I remember seeing you at Devour probably four or so years ago. And I was like, I recognize that guy. But I have no idea who he is.

Delo: Who is that crazy man?

Tamara: But I mean, I remember seeing you somewhere and then finding out what you do and how involved you are, not just in the insurance side, but the actual story and success of people. It's kind of a big deal.

Delo: That's awesome. Thank you.

Tamara: Yeah.

Delo: Yeah. So, so cool. So, now that I have the podcast, I think you're guest number 20 or something like that. But yeah, so this is a lot of fun for me. Let's get into your story. Because a lot of people who may not know you at all, which could be very few, but I want them to kind of get to know you a little bit. And let's start from the very beginning.

Tamara: Very beginning when I was born?

Delo: When you were born. You were born or you grew up in the Rocky Mountain area, right?

Tamara: I did, yeah.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: Yeah, I grew up in Utah, pretty much ghost town. I mean, you're talking not even gas stations or anything. I learned to drive a truck, a stick when I was 12 because we had to haul water. We didn't even have water piped in.

Delo: Oh my god.

Tamara: So, you had this big 250-gallon tank on the back of the truck. It's like an old Chevy truck. And then 1000-gallon tank in the ground.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And we'd go at least once a day and go fill it up. And it's from these underground lakes. So, the purest water you've ever had in your entire life.

Delo: I hear that. Wow.

Tamara: So, there's great things about living out in the middle of nowhere because there's no light pollution. So, you can see every star in the sky. There's hardly any noise pollution. So, if there's a vehicle driving up the road, we're like 7500 feet.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, people driving up the road into the crown of the mountain, you could hear the vehicle and kind of figure out who it is.

Delo: That's crazy.

Tamara: Which is cool.

Delo: So, now, is it literally like a ghost town with ghost in it or just ...

Tamara: I think so. It was an old booming mining town. So, this area was going to be the state capitol. And it burned down during some crazy thing. But the mining still kind of goes on. But there's what we call Tommyknockers. And that's the old miners' ghosts and all these mineshafts.

My mom owned a restaurant in the town over. It was called Gold Diggers.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: And it was one of the original buildings. And that place, I swear, was haunted. It was so scary. There is a mineshaft in the back of that restaurant, too. And it was terrifying. We'd be there by ourselves. And you could hear things moving around in the kitchen and I'm sure it's just the old building.

Delo: Oh my god.

Tamara: Doing its thing, but it was so creepy.

Delo: What kind of food did your mom's restaurant-

Tamara: It's just very homestyle.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I mean, people didn't want more than hamburgers, chicken fried steak, and she made pie. That's kind of where my love of pie came from.

Delo: Gotcha.

Tamara: It was always fresh homemade pies every single day.

Delo: And I would assume the food would have to be obviously driven in there. I mean, from ...

Tamara: Yeah, we would go to Sam's Club and Costco once a week and load up the truck. But I think I learned about wild foods. It wasn't from her restaurant. I learned work ethic from her restaurant.

Wild foods, it's just something I've always been involved in since I was a little kid. I've always loved exploring and figuring stuff out and picking things and I was always interested in nature.

Delo: That's cool. So, I had Breton here for the podcast last week. And I called him the Indiana Jones.

Tamara: Oh, he told me.

Delo: I think he loved that. So, okay, cool. So, you're in Utah. You're doing your thing. And then you have a daughter?

Tamara: Yeah.

Delo: Who went to BYU, correct?

Tamara: My daughter is at BYU now. She's in her master's program. She runs a fawn or a mule deer program where they actually put colors on fawns and they track them to try to figure out why the population is declining.

Delo: Wow.

Tamara: And if the deer die, she has to go find it. She's telling me a story once about this badger got one of the baby deer and she had to dig down in a badger hole and try to pull it up and only the head came out.

Delo: Wow.

Tamara: But she also has to do forensic science and figure out when it died, and just a few details about it, and if it was natural or not. Well, obviously, it's always natural, but if it died from freezing or starving or being killed.

Delo: You have to be totally proud of her.

Tamara: It's really cool. So, I had her I was still in high school. I graduated as a junior a week after she was born.

Delo: Okay, okay, wow.

Tamara: It was hard. It was difficult. I was not good at school because I didn't ... I was kind of a bad kid. So, I actually got all of my high school credits plus college credits in one year while I was pregnant.

Delo: Okay. We're in 2020, so, define bad kid.

Tamara: I had zero point grade average up until I was a junior.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I either didn't go into this class or I didn't do anything. I just wasn't interested.

Delo: Just didn't interest you.

Tamara: I wanted to go out hiking and go explore caves and go ...

Delo: Do what you loved.

Tamara: Do what I was doing instead of being in school. And my school is tiny. It was like 125 students, grades seven through 12.

Delo: Isn't that interesting when you hear stories and such as yourself of people that just didn't, they didn't get along with school, just wasn't for them. And then yet they set their path for their career and they find something like that they're really into and they're really fucking good at it like you are.

Tamara: I love education, too.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I absolutely do. Even though I wasn't paying attention in class, I was reading all the time. And I would take my textbooks. And I would read the whole thing.

Delo: No kidding.

Tamara: So, I knew what I was doing. And I could pass tests. I could good go in and-

Delo: Yeah, you're not dumb.

Tamara: ... and pass them. But I just didn't want to sit in a class at all.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, I ended up graduating a year early. And my first job outside of high school was a newspaper editor for the little town.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: But I mean, I wanted to be a writer. That was actually what I wanted to do.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: But that wasn't interesting to me either. It was just there was so much creative control.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And I wanted to be creative.

Delo: You wanted to be able to have the whole gamut of it. And you have two sisters?

Tamara: Yes. Oh, I have three sisters.

Delo: Three sisters, okay.

Tamara: And two brothers.

Delo: And two brothers. And where are you in the tier of?

Tamara: Right? Second to last.

Delo: Okay. And so, I mean, did you all get along growing up? Did you all work in the restaurant together?

Tamara: We were really spaced out in age. So, I think at one time, there's just three of us, the youngest three living at home. The rest are already gone. So, I had to work all the time. The other kids didn't really have to work. So, I was forced to kind of ground me a little bit. It was like, you're going to work. So, I started working when I was 14 in the restaurant. And from there on.

So, I ended up quitting the newspaper a year in and going back to restaurants, just wanted to. And it was just something I enjoy hard work. Physical work is, I never want to be stagnant and not move around. I enjoy the intensity and just the rawness of working in a restaurant.

Delo: That's amazing.

Tamara: It's just interesting. And I don't know, it's hard work. When Anthony Bourdain says, you have to be a pilot to work-

Delo: It's physical, yeah, for sure.

Tamara: It's hard, but I enjoyed it. So, I ended up moving to Arizona sometime in 2000 I think.

Delo: Okay. So, you basically went from Utah doing what you're doing just right into Arizona?

Tamara: Yeah, my sister lived down here.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: So, I moved down here. And at first, I was not a fan of Arizona at all just because I was not-

Delo: Most people aren't when they first get here.

Tamara: I wasn't used to the heat. But there was just something about it. I just fit with the people here. Just people seem so genuine and out for their own past. It's just different set of people out here.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And I really enjoyed that. And I really enjoyed making relationships, friendships with people here. And then the restaurant industry was completely different though.

Delo: It was a melting pot.

Tamara: Well, kind of. So, in Utah, a lot of restaurants are driven by women.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And that's a huge part of the restaurant staff is women.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: And then I came down here and it's like, "No, you can't be a cook. You have to be a server or cashier." And I went through so many restaurants and they're like, "Nope, you don't belong in the kitchen."

Delo: And this is what, 20 years ago? Yeah.

Tamara: Yeah. So, I had a hard time finding. And then I finally landed a job at a little bar and grill place called Stackers.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I was there for 12 years actually.

Delo: Like on the west side over there?

Tamara: Yeah, Cactus and I think they just shut down, COVID.

Delo: I know exactly where they're at.

Tamara: I got there. And they said, "She doesn't work, she can be a waitress." But I quickly took it over and really enjoyed it. And it was just fun running the line on a Friday night by myself and just running hard and out there in front of people, and just performing. That was also something I enjoyed doing. So, I did that for a really long time. And I didn't actually get into finer dining craft food until I met, Keenan and Josh. They were at the time they were at Atlas Bistro.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: And they were getting ready to open their own restaurant, Pig & Pickle.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I was like, "Please let me come work for you. I'll wash dishes or whatever. I just want to learn." So, Josh is like, "Here's a book about bread. I want you to read this, and you're going to come make bread. And you can't show up until you read this whole book."

Delo: So, did you ever have any formal schooling or anything like that, as far as cooking?

Tamara: No. I've just been cooking forever. I've always experimented. As far as wild food, I remember one of the first things I made was a rhubarb ice cream and some wild rhubarb that would just grow in Utah.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: And I remember making this ice cream. I had no idea how to make ice cream.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And I think I was nine years old. And I made this rhubarb ice cream. I was so proud of myself. And my friend locked me out of her house and eat the whole thing.

Delo: No way. Oh my god.

Tamara: But I was always so interested in just weird, different things, but utilizing what you had.

Delo: Yeah. Ice cream can absolutely create crazy people. So, my wife and I have ice cream battles. And she will literally hide ice cream from me in one of our freezers somewhere or whatever. And she's one of those people that will eat two bites and be okay.

Tamara: Yeah.

Delo: If there's a pint, I eat the whole thing.

Tamara: I understand where you're coming from. So, I think I've always kind of thought outside of the box and didn't want to follow trends and do what everybody else was doing. But working in certain restaurants, I didn't get it. I kind of forgot that mindset I had. And I think when I went to work for Josh and Keenan, you need to think outside the box.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: Think of things that don't normally work together. Just figure it out. I wasn't told what to do, but I was given a push to do it.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I think my mind just went crazy. I think that's where I blossomed as a chef was in that moment.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I just started doing weird stuff. I left there and I went and worked at the Henry in their bakeshop for about a year.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: And I learned high production stuff and how to work, doing things like that. And then from there, I went to Helio Basin, and they hired me as their executive chef. I had no experience as the exec chef, just as pastry chef and management.

Delo: You would have never known. I mean, I remember going in there and you coming out and delivering food and all that, and it was just absolutely amazing.

Tamara: But my mindset is you don't have to necessarily be taught how to do something.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: You grasp the opportunity and you learn how to do it, period.

Delo: Take responsibility for it, yeah.

Tamara: There's no question. When people say, "Well, so and so never taught me how to do this." It's your responsibility to learn how to do it.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, you either grasp it 100% or you just don't do it at all.

Delo: Yeah, you just go for it.

Tamara: I grasped it and learned everything I could. It was very interesting, very challenging. And I learned a considerable amount. And at that point, I had no idea I even wanted really to be a chef.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I just know I love food so much.

Delo: But somebody out there saw the talent and [crosstalk 00:13:45].

Tamara: Yeah. So, I spent a couple years there and learned a lot and then I moved on to my own place with Sean.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: Sean Traynor. We have a restaurant now in Tempe called Cotton & Copper. And I love this place because it's approachable. It's something where you can have high end food and you can have really great cocktails and people will come in and feel like themselves and not feel like they have to get super fancy or ...

Delo: Right, yeah.

Tamara: Like level up there formality to walk in there. It's just one of those places that I feel really comfortable and I get to work with these small firms and with these really niche ingredients that come from Arizona, and that's a big deal to me.

Delo: Let's get into that, because that's so important. When did your affinity for Arizona and the localness that you guys celebrate and that you put together and then obviously, you've always had that adventurism in you, going out and searching. But when did you really start going, "You know what, I'm going to go out and get cactus today," or "I'm going to go out ..." When did that start clicking?

Tamara: Really, it was pretty recent. Actually, when I built the first menu at Helio, I was like, because they really wanted tacos and I'm like, "If I'm going to do this, I'm really grasping what it is to eat local and what is Arizona." And at the time, what is Arizona? And most people are like, "Oh, it's like Mexican food and it's all these different things." And I'm like, "I don't believe it. Because you have Tex-Mex, you have New Mexico, you have California. But what is Arizona?" So, I really got hard into my research and started just exploring it a lot and tasting stuff.

And along the way, I've met a couple people who were mentors of mine that taught me that these are these wild foods that grow not just out in the desert, but in your neighborhood. There's native foods and naturalized foods. And a naturalized food is something that was brought here and does so well that now it's part of our ecosystem.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: For instance, olive trees. You can't go anywhere and not the olives.

Delo: No.

Tamara: That's a food source and it's everywhere. And it's not indigenous to Arizona.

Delo: Interesting.

Tamara: So, it's one of those things learning about urban foraging and then sustainability and how to take care of the environment and not go collect everything and destroy things because you need it to feed the environment and not destroy the planet so it can keep producing.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And also doing extreme research so you don't poison somebody.

Delo: Yeah, it's probably important.

Tamara: It's a big deal to understand the foods you're working with and what they're for. And also understand people's allergies because it might not be poisonous, but somebody might have a severe allergy that works along like tree nuts, acorns, things like that.

Delo: Yeah, and seasonality.

Tamara: That seasonality and then understanding landscaping because you have an acorn tree, but there's a lot of acorn trees that are treated to create less nuts on it and that's poisonous to eat. So, I mean, there's certain things you have to really do your research before you go out.

But I felt it was really interesting because it was supplementing ingredients that people already use in recipe with these ingredients that are indigenous or strictly Arizona. And it was so fun exploring Arizona food like what it is.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And so, I went down this crazy rabbit hole.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And never came out of it, basically.

Delo: And you have some relationships with some of the reservations out here, some of the tribes, and this and that.

Tamara: And the first farm I ever started working with was Ramona Farms because as I was doing my research about ingredients and where do I even source stuff. Because for a restaurant, you have to source enough ingredients to keep something on a menu, and you can't go do that yourself or you'd spend ... I mean, you see, Brett, he's out there every single day. You have to do that to be able to ... And I don't have the ability because I am at the restaurant 20 hours a day.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: So, it's like ...

Delo: That's a lot of mushrooms. I mean, he gave me a jar of mushrooms. And you could just tell how much love and care is in that. But you can't sustain a restaurant just on-

Tamara: No. I mean, there's a reason why people pay 20 plus dollars a pound for things like that because so much work goes into it. And it's really rare. So, I appreciate those things.

So, creating menus from finding local farms like Ramona Farms, and they grow beans, and corn, and heirloom grains. And it's really important too not just because it's cool ingredients, but for health reasons. I mean, you look out here, a lot of the native communities, they don't have a lot of sources for food that tastes good that uses ingredients that are healthy.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And we need more of that. That's a huge community here. We need to teach people food sources and actually make it healthier too, and use things ancient grains that your body can ...

Delo: Process?

Tamara: ... process.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: Finding out things calcium. You didn't see a lot of cow. There was no cows out here. People weren't drinking cow's milk. Then to find that a lot of calcium comes from juniper, burning juniper and mixing in the ash or cholla buds contains so much calcium, and that's why there's a huge collection of that and drying those out and reintroducing it into the food. So, finding out a lot of the science behind it and the reasons why and it's actually really delicious.

Delo: No. Well, of course, when you put it together and you make it delicious, and you experiment, I'm sure you've tasted a lot of stuff that hasn't been delicious. You can mark that off.

Tamara: So, my first time ever doing a food event was Devour a few years ago.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And so, I took Ramona Farms corn and I made tortillas with it. And then I smoked bison and I made these taquitos.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: And at the time, I had no idea about the competition at Devour and stuff. I was just like, "I need people to know what we're making because most people don't even know that we exist." So, I'm like, "It's going to be a fun event to go out here and just introduce people to our food and Arizona food." This is Arizona food.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And I had no idea what was going to happen, but we ended up winning the whole event overall. We won an award the first day and then the second day. I was in the dish pit. And Natalie calls me and she's like, "You need to come back down here." She wouldn't say why.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I come back down there and we had won the whole thing.

Delo: You're the winner. I remember that. Yeah.

Tamara: And I had no idea. I remember saying to my old chefs and I was like, "We just won." And it was like, "What?"

Delo: Wait a minute. Wait, what? Yeah.

Tamara: It was crazy because I think that was the single event that unleashed my career, as a notable chef, as somebody people actually wanted to follow.

Delo: It gave you the confidence, yeah.

Tamara: Well, it wasn't just that. It was people now are paying attention. What is it that she's doing because we don't see that anywhere, these restaurants. This is a new concept, but an old, very old concept.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: So, it was cool to get a little notoriety and then move from that and teach people because it's about education. It's not just about the food. It's educating people on how to collect their own and eat it and use it and cook with it.

Delo: Do you teach or do you ...

Tamara: Excuse me. A little bit. I'm part of the Blue Watermelon Project, which obviously is on hold for a minute. But it's headed by Charleen Badman, who's the most incredible chef in Arizona, for many reasons, not just James Beard.

She had this idea like we need to educate kids so they actually understand food. And it's crazy because you have school and you teach all these subjects. But food is all these subjects, everything.

Delo: Everything.

Tamara: So, one fun thing that I get to do is go teach social studies and science and history and go teach kids. The best was in the fourth grade because they were all studying different native tribes.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, we got to go in and be like, "Here's all these foods. Let's figure out what each of these tribes ate, depending where they are."

Delo: Right.

Tamara: Because if they were in Yuma, obviously, they're not eating the same thing as the Apache that live up in the mountains.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, it was cool to go through that and have kids eat these foods, eat cactus. All the kids ate cactus and teach them about different grains. And then I came back and did a sustainability class and brought insects. And the kids were eating ants and crickets and worms. And it was so cool because we talked about, it's the thing that people see as novelty, right?

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: But most of the countries around the world, that's how they feel.

Delo: That's how they feel.

Tamara: And so, you don't have to eat insects. You can grind it down into a flour and mix it into your food and get protein.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And it's really expensive to do in the United States because we don't have good farms for it. But that could change and especially as the climate changes, we need to think about more sources of protein. And so, these kids walked away from that as, you know what, this is maybe the future of food and we should really think about it.

One girl, she was so adorable. She came up and she's like, "My dad works at Oreganos. And I'm going to tell him to go tell his boss that they need to start serving with ants on the menu." And I was like, "Maybe just start by telling him you want to eat this at home?"

Delo: That's awesome. That is great.

Tamara: But they were inspired and they all ate it.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: They were so inspired because we talked about it first before we got down into the eating. And I love education because first of all, I'm a kid at heart.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I love weird stuff like that. So, the opportunity to go get complete attention from these kids and teach them about ingredients is so important. I mean, one time we took a bunch of onion bud, like the bulbs.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And we planted them and then several months later, harvested them and ate them. And they got to understand this need of food.

Delo: I mean that's so amazing. I started gardening when we got in our house that we're in now. And a lot of people will think of Arizona, you can't garden out there. It's too hot. But what I didn't even realize is that you can grow pretty much any and everything. And so, to watch something from seed or even plant turn into this beautifully blossomed cauliflower or broccoli or carrot.

Tamara: Yes, they're so good.

Delo: It's just amazing. And then you make a salad or whatever just out of it or you just bite it from out of the ground.

Tamara: It feels so much different than if you buy it.

Delo: It's crazy.

Tamara: And it tastes amazing. People hear Arizona and they think we're just a desert and they don't realize we are an agricultural state. That is almost everything.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: We grow all year round. It's really important. There's one thing, one of the last schools I went to, it was actually heartbreaking to hear. It was a tribal school and they're looking to start getting some education out there and teaching these kids about farms because I didn't know this, but a lot of the kids, they don't look at farms as a good thing.

Delo: Really?

Tamara: Because most of the people out there farming, they're not growing food for the tribe. They're growing it for something else and sending it out.

Delo: Gotcha.

Tamara: And a lot of them aren't even part of the tribe. They're just from a different culture. So, most kids see them as outsiders and not a good thing. So, we need more kids to grow up and want to farm indigenous foods.

Delo: We got to reverse that, yeah.

Tamara: A lot of reasons why a lot of these kids don't grow up eating foods they're supposed to eat is because they're not introduced to it. And they're eating this other food. They need to be eating food that is healthy for them.

Delo: They don't even know the food that is healthy for them was even there.

Tamara: And they don't know how to grow it or how to get it.

Delo: Yeah. No, that's great that you're that.

Tamara: Some projects we're hoping to work on again when things get back to normal is we need to start teaching these kids how to grow food and you need to eat the food of your ancestors. It's really, really important.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: It's really important to your mental health and your physical health. So, it's one of the things I want to start teaching kids when we get back to it, and of course, a lot more of the growth stuff, too.

Delo: Yeah, no, for sure. And you touched on a lot of things. I know, nutritionally, when you look at stuff that is closer to the source, albeit grains from Arizona, and vegetables from Arizona, and stuff like that, people get so hung up on their fad diet, on, "Oh, I got to be this, I got to be that," and then they continue to put themselves in a box. And yet, if you just eat, in my opinion, real whole food that is made with love-

Tamara: Your body will process it.

Delo: ... your body will process it. That's what your body does.

Tamara: And so, I think Ramona Farms is so cool because of the things that grow, it's heritage food. It hasn't been changed by GMOs or anything else through the year. So, I mean, you're eating the real food. And sometimes, I don't know, it's more expensive because it costs more. The crops don't yield as much because it's not supposed to.

Delo: Understood. If you're going to spend a lot of money, aren't you going to spend it on something you're going to put inside your body.

Tamara: Yeah. Another part of the education is educating our customers. Our food isn't really cheap. And educating them the reason why, it's because these are ingredients that you can't just go buy at the grocery store, and it's not mass produced. And a lot of care goes into every little part of it. And I think for the most part, people understand it. But there's a lot of people will be like, "I just ..." One person made a comment once on the pie because their pies are not cheap. They're like, "Well, you could just go to Walmart and buy a sweet potato pie for like $2 or $4." Okay, then do that.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: Go do that.

Delo: Please, by all means. Yeah.

Tamara: I mean, because cost is more than just the ingredient, too. It's the labor that goes into it. It's the time and then you have to pay overhead. You have to pay for all your things. And people that don't know about how a restaurant works, restaurant workers don't get paid a lot.

Delo: No.

Tamara: They're on the low end.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And it's not because we don't want to pay them. It's because a restaurant ...

Delo: The margins.

Tamara: ... the money comes in you get from sales of food and alcohol.

Delo: Yup.

Tamara: And then that has to go to paying rent, paying electricity, paying all these different things. Half the ingredients you pull in you don't make money from because it's cleaning chemicals. It's garbage bags, towels, linen services, things like that, that you have to pay for. And when it comes down to it, and then you have this much for labor.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And it's like, if you want to create good food from scratch, that requires a lot of labor. And it's just really hard that people don't understand that. Restaurants have issue.

Delo: When you say that your niche though, I mean, really people that are in love with you and what you do and how you do it, they go there for that reason.

Tamara: Yeah.

Delo: And yeah, you're going to have your people just like me with a specialty in hospitality insurance, there's people out there that just they decided they want to open a restaurant or brewery and they were technology people.

Tamara: They don't realize the work that goes into it.

Delo: And they don't see the specialty and the work that goes in on the back end. I think that's true with anything. But yet what you have created, in my opinion, is something so unique and so local, and so down to the root that I think that just if everybody in Arizona knew about you, you would just be completely [crosstalk 00:28:50].

Tamara: Well, we're your tiny, tiny, little restaurants. I don't think we ever-

Delo: Yeah. No, I know, right?

Tamara: It certainly isn't for everybody. But it's one of those things of understanding small restaurants like this, the owners don't get rich.

Delo: No.

Tamara: All of that money goes into because we do this because this is our love.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: All of that money goes back into this place to keep it alive. And that's a big deal and take care of your employees the best that you can. And right now, I think it's a good time for a lot of restaurants to look at the way things are structured and make them better.

Delo: Huge. Yeah, especially right now.

Tamara: It goes down to not just pay of employees, but quality of life. Before, you get sick you work through it, right?

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: Because you have to because, I mean, if my employees don't show up, I have to work and I'm already there working. So, it's like trying to fill that in. And so, trying to figure out how to solve that problem. And also, the treatment of your employees, some people will work 16 plus hours a day, sometimes two jobs or that one job if you're on salary, and it's like, they don't need to be in that environment and get treated badly too.

I'm glad to say in my restaurant, that's been one of my biggest pushes because I was in a lot of restaurants where there was not good treatment and I've seen a lot of bad stuff. And I want a safe place for people they can go and they feel like this is your home. You're spending more time there than home.

Delo: Hundred percent.

Tamara: So, that's been a huge push for me. And I think it's really important to recarve the way people think of restaurants. And before they'd be like, you see Gordon Ramsay screaming at people, that's not how it needs to be.

Delo: No.

Tamara: At all.

Delo: No.

Tamara: It's not. You need to lead by example and hold people accountable. It's not about discipline.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: You shouldn't have to discipline your employees. You hold them accountable so they understand how important it is. There's always consequences to everything, but you don't need to degrade people. So, that's been something that's been huge for me ever since I became a chef is I want to change the way people view the health of restaurants.

Delo: And you want that known and you want that to be able to spread into other restaurants and other chefs and yeah, you don't have to be that hard ass.

Tamara: It's difficult. Well, it's really difficult to because for a lot of people, some of my cooks are like, I worked at this restaurant and this restaurant, and I saw the chef doing it and I don't know any better. How do you make people do their job without yelling at them? You do. You do or they don't feel that position. Somebody else works on that position and say, do your job or somebody else will do it.

Delo: With as caring you are with your employees, and I know you're a team player. I know you don't look at your restaurant and yourself has, it's just your show sort of thing.

Tamara: It definitely isn't.

Delo: Yeah, with all that being said, how important or how I would say you are proud, how great is it that you have gotten a lot of these awards that have come, the ARA and Devour, or on Chopped, right?

Tamara: Yeah. I almost forgot about that. I was on Chopped.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I've had a lot of experience. And I feel like those experiences push you to a new spot.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I think of it as the same way as you upgrade your phone. You got to constantly upgrade who you are and what you're doing and these experience do that.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I mean, running marathons that pushes you to the next level, and I'm excited for the next level. I know there's going to be more and more things. I'm not a person to be stagnant. I get bored really ... I mean, I don't give myself time to be bored. But I like challenging myself doing new things. And seeing how to better your environment and the people around you, it's really important.

Delo: Yeah. I know you live, eat and drink hospitality. And you literally live there and you work there a lot. But when did your fighting career start?

Tamara: Oh, man, I've been training in different martial arts. I think I started in 2010 or maybe 2009. It's probably 2009.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, I started as I just had my son. And I didn't want to just go to a gym. I've always been interested in boxing and stuff like that. So, my sister, she's like, "Let's join a gym together." So, we did our research and we really want to do Muay Thai because it's the most brutal form of martial arts. And that's interesting to me. So, we joined together and then she got deployed to Afghanistan, I don't know, a couple months after that. So, I ended up just going with it.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And training, and I went to a couple different schools and then there was one day my coach was like, "Hey, I'm going to put you in a smoker."

Delo: Whoa.

Tamara: And a smoker is like headgear, all that stuff. What troubles I ran into though as being a female fighter. There's not a lot of people in your weight class or your skill or whatever. So, I remember being in fight camp for a couple years straight because fights kept falling out or whatever. My first actual fight was at Celebrity Theater.

Delo: No way.

Tamara: In front of so many people. And it was a Muay Thai fight. It wasn't smokers, straight up. You're not wearing any gear at all. You just got your gloves and your wraps and stuff and your mouth guard.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I ended up losing, which was crazy, because I swear I won that.

Delo: You have video of it?

Tamara: No, there's not. It was bad blood, but there just wasn't. But got fight of the night, which was great.

Delo: That's cool.

Tamara: I fought my heart out. But it was something I just enjoyed because it wasn't a negative thing like beating people up. It's like you push yourself to a level. You have no clue you can get.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: And it involves so much crazy training that most people can't endure. It's a top tier of whatever. And then once I got out of fight camp, because my coach didn't want me cross training because he didn't want me getting injured doing something else and not being able to fight, being in fight camp so much, I started doing jujitsu. And I really have a love of that too. It's one of those things. It's all mind game. It's like playing chess with bodies. There was so much more components.

Delo: And that has to translate over into your career as a chef.

Tamara: It does 100%. It 100% does it. It pushes you. It humbles you.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I mean, if you're getting choked to death and to a point someone can kill you very easily, I mean, it humbles you. You're not that badass you think you are. I mean, I really enjoyed that. I don't have as much time for it anymore because it's like, being a chef has kind of taken over my life quite a bit. But I'm planning to get back into it. I've been doing some research on places. Because I don't have the desire to fight anymore because I mean, I'll be 40 next year.

Delo: Yeah, a lot on your body.

Tamara: Yeah, and brain injuries are a big deal. I've had a lot of concussions and I like the clarity of my brain and what it can do.

Delo: Have you been getting into any meditation or any calmness sort of stuff?

Tamara: When I go out into the desert, that's meditation for me.

Delo: That's great.

Tamara: I almost always go out by myself.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I take it in and I enjoy it. I'm infatuated with birds too.

Delo: Oh, so am I.

Tamara: So, I mean, going out there and just seeing what I can see. And I feel the health of your bird community tells you the health of the people. And there's a reason why there's the canary they used to take down to a mineshaft kind of thing. It's really important. So, I find a lot of peace with that. And I enjoy it quite a bit.

Delo: Have you seen the wild parrots out here?

Tamara: There are?

Delo: Yeah, they're like in my house, around my neighborhood. They live right there.

Tamara: But it makes sense because we have food here year round. And it's kind of a tropical environment and things are kind of changing too with Arizona. It's kind of cool, but I enjoy that. And that's meditation for me.

Delo: And I love that you say that because I think this is an important point. And especially has I in building an aspect of my brand, it's food focus and fitness. And when you look at the focus aspect of something and have a chef-

Tamara: Effort.

Delo: Effort, baby, that's right. And to have a chef talk about going into the wilderness and that is my form of meditation, when a lot of people, when people hear meditation or they hear-

Tamara: They think you have to sit.

Delo: You have to sit there with your legs crossed.

Tamara: I can't sit that long.

Delo: No, and neither can I a lot of times. Now, I've learned how to do it and this and that. But for me, it goes back to running. Why do you run so much? Because my mind is somewhere else while I'm running and it's a meditation.

Tamara: You need a little of that in your life.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: Sure.

Delo: And I'm sure when you're out in the desert and you're by yourself, and these things are probably, these images and words are downloading into your system and maybe you're getting new recipes.

Tamara: Well, I'm not even thinking about that. What I'm actually doing is looking at the desert. I love rocks and stuff, too. My dad was a geologist. And I've always had this like, I don't know, if it's epigenetic or whatever. I love stuff like that in the environment. So, actually one of my biggest inspirations when I'm building a food, like a dish is what I see in the desert. I plate things I see in the desert.

Delo: That's cool.

Tamara: And I love seeing those things. And I don't know. I'm infatuated by it.

Delo: There is nobody like you.

Tamara: I love going out with other people. It's fun. Going out with Brett, you learn a lot. But when I go by myself, I'm in it completely.

Delo: Yeah, yeah, for sure. You let Sean know where you're at when you go out there?

Tamara: No.

Delo: Come on. Are you still writing for a movie? I would assume you're still into horror and all the [crosstalk 00:38:44].

Tamara: Oh yeah, I'll always be.

Delo: What's your affinity with that? Was it growing up in a ghost town?

Tamara: Maybe. I actually haven't taken it back that far.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, for what you're getting into right now, there was a time in my life where I really wanted to make movies, but I wanted to make B movies, on top of anything because I just love that. I didn't want to make thriller horror. I wanted to be more like, just guts and splatter.

Delo: Zombie, corpses.

Tamara: Yeah, just like, in comedy, because to me, it's comedy. So, I started researching how to do a lot of special effects on your own.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I found out that a lot of the old school horror movies from the '70s. And so, they used food products to do a lot of things.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, I'm like, I'm going to write this cookbook. It's going to be called The Incredible Edible Corpse. And it's going to be all of ingredients made ... All the body built from ingredients. And then you can make a zombie movie and you could actually eat the body parts. And it's like, you don't have to spend all this crazy money on ... Because I mean, you don't have a lot of money. Making a film is really expensive. And it's like if you can cut down almost all the costs and just make a crazy B movie. Everybody has a phone that can film.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: Anybody can make a B movie.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: But I'm trying to just make it entertaining because it's not just about making a movie. It's about creating art and entertainment and telling a story.

Delo: Yup.

Tamara: So, I wrote a full movie script. And it's called El Cricket Mafiosos. So, take it back to Utah. There's these things, these Mormon crickets, which are massive crickets that when they come, they're basically locusts. They destroy everything including each other. And it's like, you could be driving down the road and all of a sudden, the road is moving and then you realize, it's just millions of Mormon crickets just mass huddling everywhere. They're cannibals too.

Delo: Oh my god.

Tamara: They're crazy. So, I wrote a movie script about them. And it was based in Utah, an old mining town and Mormon crickets. And it's just crazy. And I'm pretty proud of it, but I was going to make this.

Delo: And are you still going to do the cookbook?

Tamara: It's still on the backburner. But I'm working on other cookbooks too. And I have so many projects, constantly. Hopefully, I finished something eventually.

Delo: But eventually, you will have basically a project that you will have completed that people come and purchase besides coming to the restaurant and buying.

Tamara: Eventually.

Delo: Yeah, eventually. I so want to just really dig into your affinity for baking. And I know we talked a little bit earlier about how you had gotten into that. But what are some of your favorite things to bake?

Tamara: Well, obviously pie.

Delo: Yeah, you do a lot of pies.

Tamara: I've been baking, honestly, since I was like six or seven years old.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And that's no joke, on my own. Just because I was so interested and it wasn't necessarily following recipes. It's just like I need to create something. I remember the first thing I ever baked was these cookies and I used gelatin packets and stuff and everything I could find in the kitchen and made this weird food that it was so terrible. I couldn't even feed it to the neighbor dog. It was not good. But I was really, really interested in it.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And I remember my brother and I, we tried to make a lemon meringue pie. And I had no idea that the meringue was egg. And so, I put whipped cream on it.

Delo: So, you learn real quick. Yeah. Do you find yourself working with ingredients to appease some of the new trends or diets or things that are going on?

Tamara: Everything I make is usually based on a riff of something because it's interesting or I happened to have an ingredient and I want to utilize it, but I want to showcase it in a way that it's special and different and interesting. And I know people, they get bored really easily with food. You constantly have to be, here's the new thing. I feel like people eating my pie are craft beer enthusiasts. It's like how can I add this to untapped and make the new beer I'm getting. It's fun for me though and I really enjoy it.

Delo: It's a great outlet, yeah.

Tamara: I'd love to have a pie shop eventually.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: But for now, this is something that I'm doing and I enjoy. But I love baking, I always have, love pastries for the fact that no matter what you make, people are willing to try it because it's a dessert. You can do the weirdest stuff and people are into it because it's desert.

Delo: Well, think about you go from kicking somebody's ass to making a pie. I mean, how awesome is that?

Tamara: I mean, still, I'm going to someone's ass too.

Delo: Yeah, well, why? We're going to share your Instagram handle and stuff. And if you're listen to this, after this through the show notes or whatever, you have to check out and follow her Instagram because it's just so tasty. Absolutely.

Tamara: There's a lot of food on that Instagram.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And then other things. I put a little bit of my life in there too.

Delo: A little bit, yeah. Let's talk events. I know you do a lot of stuff with Local First. I know you do stuff with C-CAP, again, talking about the kids and how important that is for you, as we talked about the Blue Watermelon Project. And then I know you've done some stuff with Cloth & Flame?

Tamara: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Delo: Yeah. How are those dinners structured and set up?

Tamara: So, Cloth & Flame, they pretty much drop you in the middle of nowhere. You build a kitchen from scratch and you feed hundreds of people. And it's really cool because you're cooking out in the middle of the desert with elements. And that part I love.

I've done a couple dinners with them. Actually they raised some money recently, and I'm one of the chefs that eventually whoever bought tickets to a future dinner, I will be cooking for you. It's just really cool because it gives you a chance to be yourself and curate a menu that kind of it works your restaurant has no walls.

Delo: Yes.

Tamara: It's that desert and it's beautiful. The locations are always beautiful. It's really important to me. I'm obviously inspired by that stuff, so being able to cook outdoors. I mean, my dream kitchen is outdoors.

Delo: Yeah, I think that's beautiful and you will have your dream kitchen, I can certainly feel that. But when you say without walls, I think that attributes to the way that you are even within your four walls. Now, I know you have a set menu at Cotton & Copper, obviously you have to run a business, but you also do specials, I mean stuff that you have put together.

Tamara: Yeah, we've been doing a lot of talk, Cotton & Copper 2.0 is going to be a lot less set menu.

Delo: Yeah, okay.

Tamara: Because the thing with Arizona is summers in Arizona.

Delo: I do too.

Tamara: It didn't use to but, there's just something about it. The heat is kind of motivating, I think.

Delo: A hundred percent, yeah. And it just kind of grows on you. And it just allows you to just go out.

Tamara: I mean, I'd rather have hot summers than snow.

Delo: I'd rather be warm than cold. Yup. I totally agree.

Tamara: I grew up in the snow. I'm happy with the summers.

Delo: Yeah. No, I'm not going to Flagstaff. I'll go up there in the summer and visit. So, as we kind of come to an end to all this, I wanted to get just a little bit of feedback from you on how you feel the restaurant industry as a whole is going to be going future moving forward?

Tamara: Well, that's a huge question.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: And very important. Because in the future, there's not going to be as many restaurants as there was in the past. And that's the truth. YouTube still be in the industry, you have to have a true love of what you're doing. And I am glad that we've found a community. It's found a way to support each other. And I feel like that's going to be a lot more. Because just like the birds and the environment, the health of restaurants is only as good as all your neighbors are doing and all the other restaurants are doing.

So, I'm going to see, we're all going to see more sense of community and how to help each other more and build each other up, and actually, food culture is huge.

Delo: Yeah, even more collaboration than what's going on right now.

Tamara: Yeah, more collaboration, but even just the health of places, and it's not like, "Hey, you're on your own. I see what you're doing over there. But I hope you can survive." It's like, no, we actually take the time to, if someone doesn't understand how to do something, no knock on them. Maybe you just need more community help. And so, I think that's going to change a lot. I think with the changing environment, hot summers getting hotter, resources and lack of water, people are going to have to figure out how to utilize more indigenous crops because these are crops that grow with almost no water.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: They are meant to grow in the desert. So, you're going to see a lot more use of that. And it's going to really change the scope of what people are eating.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: So, I think it's good for a lot of people are starting. I'm seeing more trend, people using Arizona food, a lot more trend. And I think it needs to keep going that way, not just because it's trendy. But because this is the health and the future of food in Arizona.

Delo: Yup.

Tamara: And, again, we're an agricultural state, we could feed the rest of the world with the stuff that's grown here as we do. But with lack of water, we're going to have to move that direction and educate people on how to use it. And I see a positive future, not a negative future.

Delo: Yeah. No, and I think that's what's absolutely beautiful about your aura and what you've set up and who you are. It's all about positivity.

Tamara: It is. I mean, you can be a little crude and be positive.

Delo: Of course, yes.

Tamara: I mean, we all, do what you do. I'm excited to be a part of this community here and actually build part of it.

Delo: Yeah, you're definitely a big part of it. And you're going to be one of the many that's going to help it grow in the positivity life that we need, yeah.

Tamara: Yeah, because it's like, we got to rebuild it. So, I mean, it's kind of like when you say if there was only 100 people left in the world, we need a doctor, we need these different to rebuild the community, but we're going to have the strongest chefs that have this drive and they know what they're going to do. They're going to be rebuilding and it's going to be amazing.

Delo: You're going to make the ark, I'm not. Insurance agents are not part of that. Anyways, all right, so I've got a few rapid fire questions for you.

Tamara: Oh, wow.

Delo: All right? Okay, gore or Kenny Loggins?

Tamara: Did you actually ask me that?

Delo: Totally, 100%.

Tamara: I mean, it has to be gore, of course.

Delo: Okay. All right.

Tamara: That's set. That gore, man. It was splatter gore everywhere, and make it edible.

Delo: Frankenstein or Dracula?

Tamara: Okay, so this does not require a simple answer.

Delo: That's all right.

Tamara: Because one of my favorite writers of all times, Percy Shelley. He was married to Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. So, I'm like, get into that, but oh my god, I love Bram Stoker's Dracula, I read at such a young age and I mean ...

Delo: You don't have to say one or the other. If you love them both, that's totally cool.

Tamara: I love them both.

Delo: Okay.

Tamara: I can't choose.

Delo: All right. This is a dumb one, Halloween or Christmas?

Tamara: I used to almost always be Halloween, but I really love Christmas.

Delo: You're loving it now? Yeah.

Tamara: I don't know why. I mean, I don't want to put up a ton of decorations.

Delo: Right.

Tamara: But I kind of like the fact that we get that day off ... We get Halloween off [inaudible 00:50:34].

Delo: Do you? Okay, I wonder who arranged that.

Tamara: I don't know. Can we have both?

Delo: You have both, yes. Sugar or spice?

Tamara: More spice. When I cook more sugar, I like my sweet spot. So, sweets.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: I love my spice.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: You can make chilis dessert.

Delo: Remember the old times when you get on an airplane and they would say, fish or steak?

Tamara: Fish. I miss fish.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: A lot. That's one thing right now I'm just craving all the time.

Delo: Do you ever go out fishing or?

Tamara: Yeah, I do. Actually next week, I'm going up to Utah and I'm going to go fishing and hopefully ...

Delo: No kidding? Yeah, you're going to see your daughter?

Tamara: Yeah.

Delo: Cool.

Tamara: Will go up and stay with her.

Delo: That'd be awesome. A kick to the face or a kick to the knee?

Tamara: Face. I've blown my meniscus before and I need to walk. I need my knees to walk. I mean, your face does some things but ...

Delo: It'll heal, right? Hotdogs or nachos?

Tamara: Nachos. Oh, no, hot dog and nachos.

Delo: That's a thing?

Tamara: [inaudible 00:51:40].

Delo: Okay. You're the boss. That's awesome. Ghosts or aliens?

Tamara: Maybe ghosts. Aliens are cool, but ...

Delo: Have you ever seen any?

Tamara: Have I seen an alien?

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: Probably I have and I just don't know about it. I was listening to this podcast and there is more people alive in the US than has ever died ever.

Delo: Wow.

Tamara: So, there's some more people alive than there are ghosts.

Delo: That's pretty crazy.

Tamara: But ghosts are, I guess, I don't know anything about them.

Delo: All right. Would you rather do a Spartan race or spend a day at the car dealership?

Tamara: I would much rather do a race. Are you kidding?

Delo: Yeah. Spartans are pretty tough. But you're tough.

Tamara: I might die, but ...

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: Better than dying at the car lot.

Delo: Right? What's the farthest you've ever run?

Tamara: I'm not a great runner. When I was training, I'd have to run for cardio. But I could only do three to five miles tops, unless I don't know. I could do more. I didn't prefer to do more.

Delo: But you're good. Yeah, you're good with that. Well, that's awesome. It was so cool to have you here. I mean, thank you so much.

Tamara: Thank you.

Delo: Where can people find you?

Tamara: Cottoncopperaz.com or on the Instagram, tamara_stanger, I'm on or Pie Rules Everything Around Me or Cotton & Copper.

Delo: All that sort of stuff, yeah. And again, we'll have links to all these.

Tamara: I post more. I'm not much of a Facebook. I'm on Facebook. But if you want to see what's going on every day, it's Instagram.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: For sure.

Delo: And please come check out the restaurant if you are in Arizona and you're listening. It's an amazing experience. I mean, obviously, yes, we're talking about the food, but the drinks there, I mean, they have a whole cocktail menu that goes around the whole theme and everything and ...

Tamara: And we have the best bourbon.

Delo: Yeah.

Tamara: We got another barrel to come in.

Delo: Oh, my goodness. Yeah.

Tamara: Yeah. If you want to learn about bourbon, we won't make you feel stupid. We'll just feed you and teach you about bourbon.

Delo: We'll help you and educate you.

Tamara: Yeah.

Delo: So, no, that's great. So, yeah, so thank you, everybody, for listening to the Bar and Restaurant podcast. Please, if you can get online and be a part of the BRP, Bar and Restaurant podcast list, we're going to have some goodies to give away, maybe even gift certificates to some cool local restaurants, among other things that we're compiling.

But yeah, but join the Bar and Restaurant podcast list. And we'll have a whole bunch of new podcasts coming out as well. And podcast is sponsored by myself, Bar and Restaurant Insurance and brought to you by Local 480 and our media company here. And that's it. We had a great time. Delo out.

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