Kitchen Insider (Destinations Edition): Elote Cafe, Sedona

By Kathryn M. Miller

The award-winning Elote Cafe opened its new Sedona location in late July. Tucked off of Hwy. 89, the 4,800-square-foot location underwent a $2.5 million renovation to achieve the authentic Elote Cafe look and feel and is just over a mile away from the original Elote Cafe location. The new Elote Cafe opened with limited dine-in and patio seating via reservation only to start and take out, before expanding to its 130-seat capacity when it is safe to do so.

The opening is just another 2020 milestone for chef/owner Jeff Smedstad, which has included being a finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef Southwest and releasing Volume 2 of his Elote Cafe Cookbook (available now at elotecafe.com/cookbook).

Elote Cafe is located at 350 Jordan Road in Sedona. For reservations or additional information, call 928.203.0105 or visit elotecafe.com.

We caught up with the chef to learn a little about him and the inspiration behind his cooking and his restaurant. He was also gracious enough to share his Elote recipe with us!

Please, briefly introduce yourself.
I am Jeff Smedstad, a chef, author, husband and motorcycle fanatic.

How did you get into the restaurant business/where were you trained?
I have worked in kitchens since I was 15 and started cooking while in the Coast Guard. I used my GI Bill to go to Scottsdale Culinary Institute and later trained in Oaxaca, Mexico at Seasons of My Heart Cooking School.

From where do you draw your culinary inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from the Southwest United States, as well as the entire country of Mexico.

How would you describe the flavor profile of your restaurant?
My flavor profile is bold yet nuanced as I try to coax the maximum flavor from all ingredients in a dish.

What are some of the interesting industry trends that you are seeing?
I am seeing a strong movement to local and sustainable.

Do you focus on sourcing local ingredients? If so, what is your philosophy behind that focus?
I use some local and foraged items such as blackberries and mushrooms foraged from Oak Creek Canyon. It gives my food a sense of place here in Sedona.

What is your favorite dish at your restaurant and why?
My favorite dish is our Lamb Adobo as I have been making it for 25 years and still love it.

What is your go-to dish to cook at home? Or do you let someone else take over the kitchen?
I love to make enchiladas for my wife on the weekend, low fuss, high flavor!

What are the elements that make for a memorable meal?
Elements for a great meal are when you look at a dish and layer flavors and textures to create a bigger sum. You balance texture with acid and richness and a dish becomes a star. |CST

ELOTE

What could bring to life the flavor of Mexico more than corn roasting and caramelizing over a grill? For that matter, these flavors would be at home in any backyard where there is barbeque going on. Typically, in Mexico this would be made with starchier corn, but I prefer the flavor of sweet corn; Silver Queen is my favorite and this dish always tastes better in the summer. —Chef Jeff Smedstad

6 ears of corn with the husk intact

1 cup of mayo

1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon each of salt pepper and sugar

1/4 cup of chicken stock

1/4 cup cotija cheese ground

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Pure ground chile to taste

Over a medium hot grill roast the corn until the husks are well charred, about 5 minutes, turning them occasionally so as not to completely burn the kernels underneath. Set them aside to cool enough to handle then shuck them and cut the corn off the cob. When ready to eat, mix the mayo, hot sauce, lime juice and chicken stock and warm in a sauté pan with the corn. Pour into a bowl and garnish with the cheese, cilantro and chile powder. Serve immediately.


Photos courtesy of Elote Cafe

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