Meet new head chef at Cliff Castle Casino's The Gathering
It's all about the fresh and seasonal - at least according to Andrew Opyoke, Cliff Castle Casino-Hotel's The Gathering Restaurant's new head chef.
"I'm very excited and happy for this opportunity," Opyoke said. "I feel like I'm taking off where Chef Travis Dimmick (who left for another opportunity in Montana earlier this month) left off, with my primary goals being organization and taking advantage of finding the best value and quality seasonal and fresh food available in the Verde Valley for The Gathering."
Opyoke originally hails from West Virginia, where his family grew much of the food they ate, including potatoes, blackberries, rhubarb - anything that was available and in season.
"I'm a strong believer in simple is best, a back-to-basics kind of guy," Opyoke says. "I like it when a customer recognizes a meal doesn't have to be pretentious and isn't pretentious-it is just good food."
He enjoys experimenting with a variety of different cuisines, and has over 15 years experience cooking, gaining experience cook in the military for six years before attending Le Cordon Bleu cooking school at the International Culinary Academy. In addition, he is certified as a personal chef, attending the Culinary Business Academy for this certification.
He also maintains ownership of Sedona Custom Cuisine, which provides clients with gourmet meals on a daily or monthly basis, food for special events and parties, barbecues and receptions. "I only cook for one client presently, on my day off," Opyoke said. "He is an eye doctor and doesn't have a lot of time. So I cook food for a month at a time for him, package it up and leave it in the freezer."
It was always his intention to be a chef.
He relates how he and a long-time childhood friend both dreamed of it - although the friend, Antonio, was killed before his dream could come true. Opyoke went on to realize their ambitions, and he carries the memory of his friend into everything he does, he said.
For The Gathering, his intentions maintain a bit of that integrity. "I want to honor the Native and Southwestern flavor twists the restaurant has become noted for," he says, but also to have our customers realize that if they are just not into that, they can still get a really good meal."
The Gathering Restaurant is located inside the Hotel at Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde, I-17, exit 289. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the front desk at (928) 567-7903.