Executive Chef – LON’s at the Hermosa
For Executive Chef Jeremy Pacheco, the farm-to-table movement is more than a trend; it’s in his DNA. His family’s Arizona roots go back nine generations, and he likes to boast that one of his great-great-uncles was the last sheriff of Tucson to do a hanging. Growing up on the family farm in Marana, farm-to-table was an everyday occurrence. For example, they would harvest sweet corn and white corn from the field and make fresh masa for tamales. Now, as a professional chef, Pacheco continues working with local farms, including his father’s where he has sourced durum wheat for LON’s house-made gnocchi.
The Art of the Farm
The LON’s menu reads “Artful American cuisine” and Pacheco brings an artful approach from the ground up. With his own half-acre organic garden just outside the kitchen, Pacheco grows an abundance of seasonal products: lettuce, pumpkins, arugula, basil, coriander, fennel, onions, peppermint, chiles, strawberries, English lavender, baby oak leaf, Bloomsdale spinach, mesclun, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, and various types of squash and melon. Lemon, orange and grapefruit from trees scattered throughout the Inn’s grounds provide fruit used in many of the dishes at LON’s and in signature cocktails from the Last Drop Bar.
While the garden is a true labor of love for him, it’s also a natural training ground for his culinary staff. His goal is to instill in them a new-found connection to food which happens when they carefully and thoughtfully plant, water, weed and harvest. “There’s an intense sense of pride and accomplishment when we serve our own food to our guests,” explains Pacheco. “It just doesn’t get any fresher and more flavorful than this.”
When Chef Pacheco is not in the kitchen or his garden, he’s building relationships with Arizona farmers and purveyors – a favorite part of his job. He’s so committed to showcasing local products (80% of his produce is Arizona grown) that he also switched to buying the resort’s coffee from the Roastery of Cave Creek and tea from China Mist of Scottsdale.
The Hermosa features many Arizona wines, goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy in Buckeye and dairy goat products from Fossil Creek Creamery in Strawberry, Arizona. Chef also supplements his own garden with the luscious products from McClendon Select Organics and Duncan Family Farms.
The Art of Teaching
Not only does Pacheco’s garden serve as a classroom for his staff, but he engages them in the menu development process, showing them how to take what they grow and create new dishes. He’s dedicated to mentoring and urges his team to “have fun because this is really hard work and you’ll go crazy if you take it too seriously.”
The Art of the Meal
Surrounded by the original art of Lon Megargee, cowboy artist and builder of the original Hermosa Inn in the 1930s, Pacheco is inspired to make his meals artful presentations. It all begins with the product and then he draws on the art of keeping things simple to highlight and showcase natural flavors.
Every dish is a work of art. From starters such as the sizzling Himalayan Salt Seared Ahi Tuna served on a natural salt rock so each guest can cook the tuna to their preference to entrees like the Pecan Grilled Filet Mignon or Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon. Pacheco also salutes the whimsical nature of Megargee’s art with desserts such as LON’s Signature Cowboy Candy Bar.
“We celebrate art year-round, from our Artist-in-Residence brunch and dinner series to our customized dinners in the underground wine cellar which are truly artistic creations for my whole team,” says Pacheco. The wine cellar also celebrates the legacy of Megargee, who had originally built an underground tunnel near the space that he and his gambling buddies used as an escape route when the sheriff would stop by unannounced. Today, the cellar displays over 1,000 of the 5,000-bottle inventory and is a romantic venue for an intimate dinner for two or a celebration for up to twelve guests.
The Art of the Journey
In addition to working on the family farm, Pacheco’s first job off the farm was washing dishes at 16. Something inside him gravitated to cooking and he left the dirty dishes behind to work as a lead cook at the Sheraton El Conquistador in Tucson. It was here that Pacheco realized his newfound interest could be a career. He enrolled in the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and received a degree in Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management.
Pacheco worked his way up from prep cook to chef de cuisine at The Phoenician’s Terrace Dining Room. After seven years, he was lured to Las Vegas to be chef de cuisine at Wynn’s SW Steakhouse and tournant chef for all Encore and Wynn properties. He was chef de cuisine at Society Cafe Encore, named one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine in 2009, and he won the 2008 “Vegas Uncorked Bon Appetit,” Iron Chef- inspired competition for master chefs of Las Vegas.
In 2010, Pacheco joined Hermosa Inn as Executive Chef, where he was finally able to marry his love of cooking with his farming roots. He returned to Las Vegas for a two-year stint as the executive chef of Society Café Encore/Wynn . In September 2015, Pacheco returned to his home state and Hermosa Inn to reprise the role of executive chef under new owners.
“The food scene in Arizona continues to flourish and I look forward to being part of that again as we take Lon’s culinary program to the next level,” said Pacheco. How does someone with so much going on possibly relax? By spending time with his wife and son, playing golf every now and then, and stepping back in to work the kitchen line several times a week to ground himself in the basics, like perfectly braising a piece of meat.