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Image courtesy of Gertrude's Restaurant
Image courtesy of Gertrude's Restaurant

An Interview With Matthew Taylor From Gertrude's In Papago Park, Phoenix

Picture of Henry Oliver
Updated: 1 December 2016
Tucked away in Papago Park’s Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, Gertrude’s was started by the eponymous founder of the garden, Mrs Gertrude Divine Webster. We spoke to chef Matthew Taylor to find out more about what they offer.

What inspired the foundation of Gertrude’s?

The Desert Botanical Garden opened its signature restaurant, Gertrude’s, in January 2013 to coincide with its 75th Anniversary celebration. Gertrude’s namesake Mrs. Gertrude Divine Webster, an environmentalist ahead of her time, founded the Desert Botanical Garden in 1939. She foresaw the potential to create a distinctive identity for the Phoenix area by envisioning the need to conserve the beautiful desert.

Do you have any signature dishes you are particularly proud of?

We just changed the menu so I have not developed a soft spot for anything in particular yet, but already the crab with pork rinds, and roasted corn has been my daily lunch thus far.

What is your proudest moment in the restaurant business so far?

Anytime you see an employee move on to “bigger and better” things. Knowing you had a role in somebody’s professional success is always extremely rewarding, and reminds us why we do this, and re-ignites our passion.

How would you describe Gertrude’s atmosphere?

Casual, fun, and organic; we do not try too hard to be something we are not. We allow the beautiful surroundings, fantastic service, and food to speak for itself. It is the type of place you can enjoy a casual drink, and snack after a walk in the Garden or have a destination experience, celebrating that special occasion.

Sweet or savory?

It’s all about balance. I cannot have one without the other. In desserts, I fancy spice, salt, and acidity as much as sugar.

Do you consider a country’s cuisine when you select your travel destinations? If you could take a culinary tour around one country, which would you choose?

Absolutely! Most of our budget while traveling revolves around where we are going to eat and drink.  As much as the culinary prowess of France inspires me daily, I would have to say India. The range of cultures, cooking styles, flavors and techniques from North to South are very diverse, and very foreign to me despite having family from there. I think it would be a very exciting journey and trip.

Where would you recommend culture lovers visiting Arizona to go?

Everywhere! The range of the state of Arizona is surprising, and amazing; from the vineyards in central and southern parts of the state to ranching in the north. The influences from both sides of the border are deep and delicious. Personally, when outside of the greater Phoenix area, we like to spend time in the smaller towns that are scattered throughout the state. Be it in Bisbee down south or Jerome which is located more central. The history and culture is really inspiring, we always meet the most wonderful people, and come home with some amazing stories.

What can we expect from Gertrude’s in the future?

I think you will see the restaurant continue to evolve. A lot of people are still discovering us for the first time, which is neat because it’s always fun to surprise folks that are not expecting what they find when stepping inside the restaurant at the Desert Botanical Garden. We will continue to refine what we do on a daily basis, in pursuit of our objective of offering an iconic Arizona dining experience.

 

Local Favorite 2016Gertrude’s is one of the winners of The Culture Trip’s Arizona Local Favorite 2016 Award. The Local Favorite badge is awarded to our favorite local towns, restaurants, artists, galleries, and everything in between. We are passionate about showcasing popular local talents on a global scale, so we have cultivated a carefully selected, but growing community.