Article originally published in A Taste of AZ Magazine
“If we don’t make it, we don’t serve it—all the way to the ketchup and mustard,” Those are the words of Jason Dwight, of Persepshen at 4700 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, a restaurant serving the best of what our great state of Arizona has to offer. Consider their creations real food, with a focus on local, organic, and sustainable.
Jason and Katherine Dwight, who met at culinary school, realized a dream of opening a restaurant in the fall of 2019. Accolades came quickly, with Persepshen landing 3rd out of 100 top spots for Phoenix Magazine’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year. They had worked hard to open a brick and mortar after several years of building collateral, catering private events, pop-ups, and building a fiercely loyal following at the Uptown Farmer’s Market (yours truly included).
Then we all know what happened in March of 2020—the near-total economic shutdown. Jason and Katherine had to completely overhaul their business model. “Prior to COVID, we were open from 5-11, no reservations, no take-out. We had a 2-hour wait every night…you couldn’t even walk to the bar, and we hadn’t even hit the busy season.”
They downsized from a staff of 20 to 3. When they reopened, they set up on the patio, and just like their days at the farmer’s market, featured the “farmer’s market flashback.” The WW2 military trailer that they had used all those years was put to use again. They fired up the oven on the back of the trailer and set up the glass display case. “We weren’t sure if people were even going to show up, but we had a line around the building,” says Jason. “Granted they were lined up 6 feet apart, but it helped sustain us through the pandemic.”
The transition back to pre-COVID days has been gradual. On a recent sunny February afternoon, Persepshen held their last Sunday “farmer’s market flashback.” They are hiring more staff, requesting reservations, and continuing with take-out which they started, like many, during the shutdown. Through all the transitions, they are grateful for the lessons learned. “It allowed us to see how much we can do with how little. We have been lean for so long, and [COVID] helped us realize how many extra people we were relying on, and how inefficient it was.”
One thing that has not changed is their intense focus on buying local and processing as much as they can themselves. “We get whole animals from local organic pastures, we use only local organic produce for everything on the menu, so we change our menu every week based on the cuts of the animals we are progressing through, with what the farms have available, or whatever we feel like eating.”
Persepshen sources their chickens from Two Wash Ranch, ducks from Top Knot Farms (Benson, AZ-organic pasture-raised birds), and organic pasture-raised grass-fed beef from Moon River Beef (Perkinsville, AZ). “[The cattle] live on a beautiful piece of property. When visited, I was envious of the steers…I wanted to live there, it is just gorgeous.” The produce comes from several local farms such as Blue Sky, McClendon, Crooked Sky, Aguiar Farms, Whipstone Farm, and Pinnacle, to name a few.
Insourcing seafood for the menu, their focus is on sustainability, often consulting the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, an app that rates seafood based on scientific criteria of environmental sustainability. In addition to sourcing from locally-owned Chula Seafood, Jason buys wild shrimp from family-owned Wild Shrimp Company out of Rocky Point, and Chef Suny Santana (of Taco Chelo) has fishermen friends out of Ensenada that provide wild line-caught fish.
Since the menu changes weekly, dishes are rotated often, but you are sure to find some of the popular dishes year-round, like the charcuterie board, featuring five of Jason’s house-cured salumis, pickled vegetables, and lavosh. Other favorites include the Cioppino, Duck à L’orange, Beef Schawarma, and the Korean Fried Chicken, featuring the necks and backs of the birds with grilled cabbage, pickled watermelon radish, and i’itoi onions covered in a sweet chili glaze. Craft cocktails, cider, sake, beer, and wine—much of it sourced locally—round out the beverage menu.
Katherine, as the pastry chef, when reflecting on some of her favorite desserts, likes to keep it simple and honest. “I really like our chocolate chip cookie that we have on the menu. I use fair trade organic dark chocolate, then put a ton of chocolate chips in them, and bake them so they are nice and soft.” She also bakes her own bread, ciabatta, and pies. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a favorite times of year when she comes out with seasonal pies and a Christmas Cookie Box for orders that sold out in just a few days. Have I mentioned that they also have three children at home under the age of five?
Katherine emphasizes, “Something I think that really gets lost is there is no other restaurant that uses completely local produce, proteins, that makes everything from scratch.” Adds Jason, “For us, it is about food, about our passion, our love for the best quality from our backyard. We want to help change the public’s perception of eating locally, and organic. We want to show people you can do it, that it is not a far-fetched idea.”
Persepshen, 4700 N. Central Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85012
Looking for more restaurants in the Phoenix area? Take a look at the most recent Dine Like a Local Contest Winners Post to discover a few of the best restaurants in Central, Uptown & Downtown Phoenix.