Tía Carmen, the new signature restaurant led by acclaimed Executive Chef Angelo Sosa along with seasoned restaurant operator Mark Stone, is now open at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa as part of the resort’s vision to elevate its food and beverage offerings. The contemporary Southwestern restaurant is named after Chef Sosa’s aunt (Tía) Carmen and is an impressive addition to Phoenix’s growing culinary scene that celebrates the culturally rich “Valley of the Sun.”
Chef Sosa, known for his work alongside the most pedigreed restaurateurs, including Alain Ducasse, Stephen Starr, and Masaharu Morimoto, is widely recognized for appearing on several television shows such as Bravo’s Top Chef for three seasons and HBO Max’s Selena + Chef. As the founding chef and partner in the Michelin-recommended Mexican hotspot, Añejo Restaurants in New York City, Chef Sosa is inspired by his Latin heritage and the diverse techniques from his mentors throughout his remarkable career. A protégé of Jean-George Vongerichten, Chef Sosa explored the Southwestern region through the lens of ranchers, potters, farmers, and artisans to create the vision of Tía Carmen and hopes to instill the same love and passion his Tía Carmen had through every plate and pour.
“It’s been an incredible journey to see the transformation of Tía Carmen and witness the passion each partner and local purveyor has played in the growth of the vision,” said Chef Sosa. “We’re excited to welcome locals and visitors to this new dining experience with an inviting ambiance and menus that showcase locally sourced, seasonal ingredients reflecting a mix of tradition and modernity. Tía Carmen is centered on the idea that food is more than a meal— it’s an experience, and I can’t wait for all of our guests to taste the spirit and love of Tía Carmen.”
Open for breakfast and dinner, the menu features flavors imbued from a charcoal-wood-fired grill highlighting the beauty and ingredients of the region. Chef Sosa’s signature dinner items at Tía Carmen include: tuna crudo with chilled corn coconut broth with jicama and garnished with dill; southwestern style Wagyu tri-tip kebabs; lamb ragu with mesquite noodles and Tía Carmen’s chicken guisado, a stew made with succulent pieces of thigh meat and seasoned with a mélange of cumin, annatto, arbol, oregano. Vegan and vegetarian options include a mesquite roasted yam with queso sauce and tepary bean mole negro, mushroom menudo made with cauliflower and cordycep mushrooms, and avocado aguichile. During breakfast, the Tía Carmen Mercado, which is inspired by a combination of a Mexican marketplace and Southwestern farmer’s market, features not only traditional breakfast offerings but specialty dishes such as green chile pork, breakfast birria, native grain fried rice and an ornate variety of aguas frescas.
To complement the cuisine at Tía Carmen, Mitchel O. Bushell (formerly of Gwen, Gran Blanco and Accomplice) curated a cocktail program focusing on local herbs and spices alongside producers of small and large batched spirits such as Arizona’s own spirits Whiskey Del Bac and a broad program of artisanal agave spirits. During breakfast, guests are able to enjoy a Bloody Mary with chipotle infused vodka to pull through the Southwest flavors with every sip. If bubbles are preferred, guests can sip the Tía Carmen mimosa, which is topped with “orange air” – a housemade wine syrup and fresh orange juice whipped into a fine bubbly foam (think foam on champagne similar to foam on beer). With a focus on utilizing local produce from the region, cocktail highlights include: Prickly Pear Adonis with noble wines, housemade prickly pear shrub, and bitters; Aguachile Margarita with blanco tequila, St. Germain, cucumber juice, Lime Juice and aguachile simple syrup; Hibiscus Desert Balloon with gin, hibiscus cordial, aloe, citrus, and dry sherry topped with a berry vapor bubble; and Mole Old Fashioned with barrel-aged premium tequila and Chef Angelo’s mole washed cognac.
Eduardo Dingler (journalist, competition judge, and former corporate beverage director of Morimoto Restaurant Group) curated the wine program highlighting the best of California, Mexico and Arizona producers as well as a thoughtful international lineup.
Chef Sosa collaborated with long-time partner and restaurant operator Stone to help bring his vision for Tía Carmen to life, making this their first restaurant in Arizona. They are collaborating with a variety of Arizona-based purveyors, including Hypha Foods, the lead producer of foraged mushrooms, and Ramona Farms, where he sources the iconic Tepary beans, as well as Arizona Grass Fed Beef and Top Knot Farms for responsibly raised meats. Additionally, Phoenix-based Christiane Barbato of Blue Door Ceramics designed an exclusive custom plateware collection in collaboration with Chef Sosa to showcase a bold, beautiful Southwestern tablescape. The bespoke series was inspired by the natural elements and raw aesthetic of the desert reflecting the timeless beauty of its dramatic color palette and gritty textures.
Tía Carmen debuted its own Chef’s Garden, which will supply many of the vegetables and herbs used in the restaurant and is spearheaded by Farmer Nate’s Produce. Nathaniel Diemer (known as Farmer Nate) is a farmer growing at Spaces of Opportunity, a local community farm in South Phoenix. His mother introduced him to Chef Sosa after they met at a local farmers market where she sells the exotic herbs that she grows. Farmer Nate manages all facets of the Tía Carmen Chef’s Garden and solely plants organic vegetables, fruits and herbs based on Chef Sosa’s needs for Tía Carmen including epazote, tomatoes, baby carrots and a variety of citrus. He is excited to show guests what can be done with food, both in the ground, on a plate, and within a community.
Designed by Thomas Schoos and Lisa Gil of Los Angeles-based hospitality design firm Schoos Design, Tía Carmen celebrates an ‘Earth meets Art’ theme with sophisticated natural simplicity and plays on cues from the surrounding Arizona region. The 419-seat restaurant represents a clean, warm palette that was developed to honor the restaurant’s namesake, Chef Sosa’s Tía Carmen– a woman of passion, love and humility. Her inspiration is seen with the use of soft curves and arches hugging the space and the organic natural forms of the local landscape, capturing the essence of the rolling desert rock formations and calming hues punctuated in each vignette. Handmade plaster light fixture clusters soften the interior with organic spherical shapes, providing diverse sources of light in each room. Inspired by Chef Sosa’s knowledge and innovative use of spices, Thomas Schoos created an artwork made entirely of earth-toned spices. Chimayo, ground chilis, black and white peppers, turmeric and saffron were used to unite the food with the bright, beautiful and rich textures of the Phoenix landscape. The intention of this piece is to fully immerse the guests into the culinary experience created by Chef Sosa. Large oversized natural woven dome fixtures float over the bar area and highlight the plush, inviting lounge seating. With an array of cozy dining nooks from which to discover the rich flavors of chef Sosa’s menu, guests have a front-and-center view of his preparations as the centerpiece wood-fire grill anchors the restaurant.
The exterior reflects a natural yet modern desert landscape and includes an open adobe-style fireplace and native Vigas & Latillas architectural details adapted from the Southwestern Pueblo design style. The restaurant features an indoor dining room and bar, a beautiful outdoor dining space and several private dining rooms. PHX Architecture, led by Erik Peterson and Maurita Harris, served as the project architects.
Tía Carmen is located at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa and is accessible through the main lobby. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast from 7:00 – 11:00 a.m. and for dinner Sunday – Thursday from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.