Arizona chef Jeremy Pacheco’s career has been a whirlwind. Now, he is taking on his biggest project to date as the newly appointed executive chef and culinary director for Genuine Concepts.
The Tucson native will lead the neighborhood-focused restaurant group’s the Vig, the Little Woody, the Womack, Ladera Taverna y Cocina and The McMillan.
“With five restaurants under my wing, it is definitely a big career move for me,” Pacheco says. “This is going to be my first time outside of a luxury hotel, and I am just excited to see what I can do, given the new environment and new audience.”
Pacheco’s culinary career began when he was 16, as a dishwasher and busboy for the Sheraton Hotel in Tucson.
He took the job to save up for a car, but it blossomed after the chef relocated him to the kitchen.
“I never really left the kitchen once I stepped inside,” Pacheco says with a laugh. “It was then that I found this love for food and cooking.”
After completing high school, Pacheco enrolled in the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and received a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management. He then worked his way up from prep cook to chef de cuisine at The Phoenician’s Terrace Dining Room.
Seven years later, he moved to Las Vegas to cook for all Encore and Wynn properties. In 2009, Wynn’s SW Steakhouse was named one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Esquire magazine under Pacheco’s residency.
“Vegas was everything you’d expect it would be. Our team did almost a thousand covers a day, and on top of that, we were covered by Forbes twice a month,” Pacheco says. “It definitely held you up to high expectations and service levels, and you were expected to exceed all of them.”
Working in Vegas also had some big upsides: meeting and working alongside celebrity chefs.
“During my time in Vegas, I had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s greatest culinary artists,” Pacheco says. “Those mentors—even the tough ones—were the people who helped shape me into the chef that I am today. In the future, I hope to be that teacher to someone else.”
The award-winning chef moved to Paradise Valley’s Lon’s at Hermosa Inn as executive chef 2010. Not particularly happy with the current menu, Pacheco experimented with different recipes and reimagine expectations in the kitchen.
He later returned to Las Vegas for a two-year position as the executive chef of Society Café. It wasn’t until 2015 that Pacheco returned to Arizona for good to reclaim his executive chef role at Hermosa Inn.
Pacheco’s first memories surrounding the kitchen were weekly Sunday suppers with family. With nine generations of Arizona roots, Pacheco explains how his fresh and simple style of cooking gives a nod to his family’s farming heritage and appreciation for clean food.
“My grandparents were farmers in Marana, and I know the hard work it takes to grow crops and other produce,” Pacheco says. “It is important that I incorporate ingredients from local ranchers and farmers to support the community.”
While Pacheco says he enjoys developing new menu items to test in the dining rooms, there is something else he considers his “favorite part” of the job.
“It’s also the tight-knit community among culinary artists and restaurant-goers,” Pacheco says. “I don’t think Arizona gets all the recognition it deserves, in terms of food. Everyone thinks because we are in the Southwest, we only do Mexican food, but there are a lot of chefs are out there experimenting and doing some really incredible things.”
For fledgling chefs, Pacheco says they have to be prepared and understand the business is nothing like the cooking shows we see on TV.
“If you have the drive and are willing to put in the work to be successful in the business, then get as much experience as you can and travel when you are young,” Pacheco says. “I always wish I had experienced other cultures earlier than I had. It is critical to go out and experience the cultures you are inspired by.”