In March 2009, Sedona Monthly’s first book, The Sedona Table: Recipes From the Top Restaurants in Red Rock Country, was published, and it was an instant success. The book featured 14 local chefs, 12 restaurants and 60 recipes (it’s still sold in local bookstores, gift shops and at www.amazon.com if you never purchased your copy). In honor of the book’s 5-year anniversary, we are revisiting the concept by profiling five local chefs who were not spotlighted in the original publication. Each chef shares an acclaimed recipe. Let’s get cooking!
Michelle Jurisin: The Haunted Group
Michelle Jurisin comes from a large family, so in order to get out of doing chores on Saturdays, she would beg her father to go to work with him at his deli and catering business in Rhode Island. By the time she was in junior high, she was at the restaurant daily. On the weekends, she would observe her grandmother cooking a big Italian meal every Sunday for 40 people. “I just absorbed it,” she says.
But after being persuaded by her mother to find a more lucrative career, Michelle enrolled in nursing school. It wasn’t until she relocated to Scottsdale with her family and started working at the deli at AJ’s Fine Foods that she admitted her true calling was not in the medical field. Michelle married Eric Jurisin, and in 1994, they took a day trip to Sedona with their young daughter. They fell in love with the town of Jerome, purchased an abandoned building and opened the Haunted Hamburger in May 1994. Over the next 20 years, they would open some of the most popular restaurants in the Verde Valley including the Jerome Brewery, which became Grapes Restaurant & Bar, Nic’s Italian Steak & Crab House in Cottonwood, The Tavern Grille in Cottonwood and Scottsdale (they just sold the Scottsdale location this year), and Pizzeria Bocce in Cottonwood. In 2011, they opened the 12-room Tavern Hotel in Old Town Cottonwood, just a stone’s throw away from three of their restaurants. Today, Michelle is the executive chef while Eric manages the properties, and their daughter Nichole takes care of the marketing. (Michelle and Eric also have a 13-year-old son.) The Haunted Group, the umbrella name for the businesses, employs 160 people.
Though the restaurants have distinct personalities, Michelle says when it comes to the menus, her philosophy is universal: “Keep it simple and use the finest, freshest ingredients available.” As often as possible, ingredients are made in-house; Michelle bakes her own bread, makes her own pizza dough, stretches her own mozzarella and crafts her own salad dressings. The restaurants strive to use organic and locally grown produce as well as free-range and hormone-free meats.