A Treasure Trove of Talent in the Treasure Valley
Rich Jimenez – Food is Family
Longtime Treasure Valley resident and chef Rich Jimenez was raised in a family of cooks. His parents own a restaurant on the bench, where he grew up bussing tables and working in the family business at around age 14.
“My parents raised me with their hard work ethic,” Jimenez says.
Bolstered with this industrious upbringing, Jimenez was exposed to every aspect of the food industry. Working behind the scenes, a young Jimenez began his hand at making desserts and salads.
“I would basically stay there (in the back) until they kicked me out,” he says.
But this peek into the culinary world made quite the impression on the young man, and, in his early ’20s, Jimenez decided to branch out of Idaho and into the trendier culinary scenes of Los Angeles. In Southern California, Jimenez was baptized in the waters of the culinary masters, learning the tricks of the gastronomical trade. With this wealth of invaluable experience, Jimenez returned to the Treasure Valley, working at the Red Feather Lounge and eventually to Le Coq d’Or in the Chateau des Fleurs in Eagle, Idaho, where he is currently creating new and exciting dishes to bring to the discerning public palate. This latest venture is one that Jimenez is most excited about.
“Chateau Des Fleur is a true farm-to-table dining experience. The food is grown in the owner’s garden, so there is a true connection to the earth,” Jimenez says. “Nothing is wasted. It makes one very mindful and privileged to explain to our patrons about where their meal comes from.”
How did you develop your love of cooking?
“I love to create something special, to create a memory for someone that comes from my own mind.”
Christopher Zahn – Butte Beginnings
Montana native Christopher Zahn is no stranger to the culinary scene. Growing up in the Mountain West, he was familiar with the food preferences borne from this side of the country, but his inner foodie craved more than the prototypical meat and potatoes fare. During high school, he discovered his passion for not just enjoying a well-developed meal but loving every aspect of the culinary experience, from prep to finish. Though these formative years were mainly spent working in the back kitchens of Butte, Montana, it also planted the seeds for exploring his hand at cooking. During a stint as an assistant food and beverage manager at the Fairmont Hot Springs in Anaconda, Montana, Zahn met a chef who encouraged the young man to learn more about the food business.
“Most people from here end up in Seattle or Las Vegas to expand their culinary experience. My brother had just moved to Boise so I thought maybe I would head there,” Zahn says.
Once in Boise, Zahn quickly settled in finding a job at the Arid Club, where he refined his talents as a pastry chef and culinary caterer, preparing private meals and fine-dining experiences. He eventually opened Zee’s Rooftop Cafe & Zee Christopher Catering in the C.W. Moore building, a place to showcase his unique spin on Northwest cuisine as well as his passion for floral design. Zahn’s hard work and drive was quickly noticed through the Treasure Valley food scene, and Zahn made quite a name among the up-and-coming stars of the Treasure Valley.
Over the years, Zahn has made it his mission to reach out to the community, spreading not only his passion for food but in service to others. He founded Corks 4 a Cure, a nonprofit that raises money for such projects as the Boise Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the St. Alphonsus Children’s Hospital and the Boise State Women’s Center. Zahn has also taken his talents and experience to College of Western Idaho and Renaissance High School to teach teens the basic foundations for cooking. He also works with the Women’s and Children’s Alliance and underprivileged families.
“I like to teach everything food, how to avoid fast food and how to create healthy, budget-friendly fine cuisine at home,” Zahn says. “It’s important to learn how to shop, cook and prep to feed a family of four for $10.”
When did you discover your love of cooking?
“During my freshman year of high school, I made shrimp scampi and even took a picture of it. But it was during my senior trip, while my friends were off buying drinks and running around, I would order something fancy and spend $50 on a meal for myself. I knew I liked fine dining.”
Jason A. Jones – Executive Chef at St. Lukes
Jason Jones knows food. Growing up in the Treasure Valley, Jones began his culinary experience at one of the popular Smoky Mountain Pizza restaurants where he worked during high school. Moving on from here, Jones ended up cooking at local favorite, Asiago’s as a sous chef, a place that encouraged his love of Italian cuisine. Sticking around the Boise area, Jones was hired as executive chef at Bella Aquila preparing five-course meals that often included uniquely Idaho courses.
“We would have specials like blueberry trout paired with local asparagus,” Jones says.
Jones eventually landed a position at St. Luke’s, where he currently works as an executive chef and food service manager, a job that not only provides critical sustenance for recovering patients but provides a unique opportunity to implement healthy fare with tastier dishes.
“We’ve learned to incorporate healthier options,” Jones says. “Now most of our meals use more nutritious ingredients like quinoa and different grains.”
Good food was a constant in his household while growing up and Jones spent a lot of time in the kitchen with his grandmother—someone who loved to cook and would encourage him at every opportunity—especially making special meals to celebrate New Year’s.
“One of her specialties was cabbage rolls. There was no recipe to follow. She would make them and I would help,” he says.
As part of his Idaho heritage, Jones likes to take advantage of Idaho’s unique outdoor recreational opportunities, hunting and harvesting wild game to cook as part of his personal recipes and meals.
Best advice for a young person who is considering getting into the restaurant business?
Work for a couple of years in a restaurant before going to culinary school. Be prepared for a lot of long hours, hard work and spending your weekends working.”
Emmeli Mayo – Emmeli’s Cakes
“I’ve always been a baker. I loved the smell of it, the community feel of it. It was like I was born into it. I spent much of my upbringing in the kitchen with my baking-oriented family, my mom, my aunt and I developed a skill for making cakes for my family.” – Mayo