Bringing the Heat: Yulissa Acosta, Chef de Cuisine, Mountain Shadows Resort
Born in Nogales, Mexico, Acosta was raised in Phoenix, Yulissa Acosta's interest in a culinary career sparked while she was in high school. Upon graduating, she was awarded a scholarship that led her to the Classic Cooking Academy in Scottsdale.
Joining Hearth ‘61 team from the very beginning, Acosta started in 2017 as a cook and helped open the restaurant in Paradise Valley. Armed with her culinary knowledge and desire to improve her craft, she quickly rose to sous chef in 2018. Recently promoted to Chef de Cuisine, Acosta oversees menu creation and continued culinary development alongside renowned Chef Charles Wiley, serving seasonal American fare made in a stunning exhibition kitchen with a stone oven as the focal point.
Yulissa loves cooking with Mexican-American and Southwestern cuisines inspired by her roots and incorporating the French style she learned in culinary school. When she is not in the kitchen, Chef Acosta relaxes at home in Ahwatukee with her pug puppy, Leo. We recently visited her at Hearth '61 to enjoy dinner and learn more.
What advice would you give young women looking to follow in your footsteps?
Speak up and stand for what you believe in. As cliche as that sounds, our voices truly matter in the kitchen. It’s not always about the volume, but the substance of your opinion and ideas can be louder.
How do you balance the influences of the Southwest as well as Mexico with French Cuisine/Style?
Over the years I’ve learned that I prefer to use French cooking techniques, and that allows me to incorporate Mexican and Southwestern flavors and ingredients into dishes.
What and who inspires you when creating menus?
We do our best to use seasonal produce, so making those ingredients work on the menu is what inspires me the most, followed by the help of Chef Alfred Muro.
What makes this part of the country unique when it comes to ingredients?
We have a lot of indigenous ingredients that surround the state and that’s the root of many southwestern flavors we now see throughout Arizona.
Which culinary trends have surprised you? Which culinary trends are here to stay? Which ones are not?
The charcuterie board movement definitely surprised me, but it’s here to stay. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser and best of all, it is customizable for certain nutritional needs, diets and it’s easy to decorate for different occasions. I can see the Beyond Burger meat trend fade away as the public is starting to realize that there are more plant-based foods out there that are more nutritional and have fewer fillers and oils.
The charcuterie board movement definitely surprised me, but it’s here to stay.
Quickfire with Yulissa
What is your morning routine?
My dog, Leo, comes first in the mornings. Once he is taken out and fed, I do my facial skincare routine. I follow that with breakfast and it will automatically make my day better. Once I’ve eaten, I do take a moment to clean up or read before having to get ready for work.
What are your wellness tips for anyone in the culinary industry?
Stretching your arms, legs, and back will help your body in the long run. Also, taking the time to eat is extremely important. We’re usually surrounded by food but it doesn’t always guarantee we make time for a proper meal every day. Our hands, teeth, and feet should always be taken care of. Without those being taken care of, it makes it almost impossible to work.
Favorite food to cook for yourself at home?
I will make soup 90 percent of the time at home, and it’s never a specific one. It’s always a different variation of a veggie soup which I absolutely adore.
Who would you LOVE to cook for?
I would love to cook for Chef Roy Choi. He seems to genuinely love all food. Any feedback from him would be amazing.