Meet Chef Liliana Rodriguez, Executive Chef at Stone & Barrel, an IronOaks Taphouse
Discovering her passion and wanting more, Chef Liliana Rodriguez apprenticed at the James Beard Award-nominated restaurant Café Terra Cotta, giving her four years of intensive culinary training. Her training and on-the-job experience at places like The Boulders Resort and Golden Doors Spa, The Four Seasons Scottsdale and The Ritz-Carlton Chicago at Water Tower Place have cultivated her techniques and expertise. Now the Executive Chef at Stone & Barrel, Chef Rodriguez, takes locally-sourced food and ingredients and puts her own twists on comfort food, creating dishes for Stone & Barrel that are irresistible.
Masterfully executed wood-fired pizzas and melt-in-your-mouth burgers are just the beginning at Stone & Barrel. Chef’s Rodriguez’s signature dishes and weekly features are both delightful and satisfying. The fish and chips are simple and fried to perfection, the ribs are succulent and flavorful, the variety of tacos are vibrant and fresh and the crispy tempura Brussels sprouts are executed perfectly.
Chef Lili, can you describe how you and your team cook at Stone & Barrel?
We imagine each customer eating as if they are our mom, dad, sister, best friend, etc. We want to make them happy and give them an experience, an emotion. Eating is a social interaction, and my team and I have a passion and strong spirit to make each plate served more than just a meal, but a complete dining experience.
What led you to your job at Stone & Barrel?
I applied, not knowing much about the IronOaks at Sun Lakes community. When I interviewed with Trish Huff, the club’s Executive Director, it was a rainy day. I arrived at the community and noticed it was such a joyful and positive atmosphere. It was an amazing first impression of Stone & Barrel and the cliental. I thought if this is how good my first time is here, I can definitely work here!
Where do you find inspiration for some of the new recipes and features you serve at Stone & Barrel?
I find my inspiration from everyday cooks. Those cooks who at home can come up with a great casserole or dish even though they don’t have the benefit of professional tools, a professional kitchen or expensive ingredients. I like to take something simple and elevate the flavors by trying different seasonings and new techniques.
What is your favorite style of cooking?
I like American style. I’m intrigued by the culture, because it is always evolving and influenced by so many things including race, religion and individual style. I’m always amazed at how American cooking can take a basic or a classic and make it different.
What is the best meal you ever ate?
I guess it would have to be Thanksgiving dinner. When I was 12, I went to a friend’s house who hosted a Latin-inspired Thanksgiving meal. I can still remember each smell and new taste. Each Thanksgiving now is a homage to that meal, making the classics while incorporated new and unfamiliar flavors to get people excited.
Are there any food(s) that you don’t like?
Okay, I really don’t want to upset anyone here, and there is a caveat to what I’m going to say. The caveat is, I love Italian food, Italian culture, the American version of Italian and the more classic dishes from Italy. I love Italian desserts! The only thing I do not enjoy is lasagna. I can’t explain it, but lasagna is a no-go at my house.
You are passionate about mentoring young cooks. Why is that so important to you?
I was so blessed to work with great chefs and cooks who took the time to teach me skills, leadership and lend me their insights into cooking. Now I can give that back. I teach young cooks through experience and give them confidence to let them know that they have the opportunity to advance themselves by working hard and learning as much as they can.
Stone & Barrel, an IronOaks Taphouse, is open Sunday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., offering breakfast, lunch and dinner specials. Visit www.stoneandbarraltap.com for more information. Everyone is welcome!