The Phoenician’s culinary team represents decades of experience with an unsurpassed love of food, dining and the pleasures of the table. From developing innovative menus for each of the resort’s restaurants to overseeing a large staff of dedicated professionals, these highly trained and exceptionally skilled culinary artisans bring taste and style to every meal served.
Lee Hillson, Executive Sous Chef
Celebrated for his originality and vision, Lee Hillson joined the AAA Five Diamond Phoenician in September 2012 as executive sous chef. In this role, he assists in directing a culinary staff of more than 150 across nine kitchens, including resort restaurants Il Terrazzo, Relish Burger Bistro, the Café and Ice Cream Parlor and the Oasis Grill, while contributing to menu creation and preparation. He also provides support for in-room dining, banquet, pastry, bakeshop, butcher shop, pasta shop and garde manger operations.
Hillson previously served as executive chef for the renowned T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, during which he gained national acclaim for his battle with Iron Chef Cat Cora on the blockbuster Food Network show, Iron Chef America. Also known for his innovation in designing exceptional house-made products while maintaining a commitment to sustainability, he was tapped by British Airways to create a First Class menu for Phoenix to London flights.
Enrolling in culinary school at the age of 16 in his native England, Hillson was working just two years later at the Hyatt in Austin. He then returned to London as the chef de partie at the Roux Patisserie, owned by world-renowned chefs, Albert and Michel Roux. After several prestigious stops as pastry chef in England, Hillson again crossed the Atlantic to become executive sous chef at Vanderbilt Hall in Newport, Rhode Island. Within a few short months, he was appointed executive chef at this restaurant, ranked as one of the country’s top five by Country Inn magazine. From there, he joined the Royal Palms, serving as sous chef for five years before being promoted to executive chef in 2005.
Since joining The Phoenician, Hillson has unveiled his own limited-edition private label beer in conjunction with Sonoran Brewing Company. “Lee’s Liquid Dinner” is a traditional English-style nut brown ale brewed with honey-roasted parsnips, chestnuts, hazelnuts, cranberries and sweet orange peel.
Jacques Qualin, Chef de Cuisine – J&G Steakhouse
Accomplished chef Jacques Qualin first teamed with world-renowned chef and businessman Jean-Georges Vongerichten in 1998 to become First Sous Chef at the now legendary Jean Georges. A decade later, the dazzling duo joins together once more for the highly anticipated J&G Steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Acclaimed as a “master of his art,” Qualin hails from the Franche-Comté region of France, a verdant area near the Jura Mountains. At age 16, he began his apprenticeship in a hotel kitchen, spending the next five years honing his craft at various hotels across France.
Qualin was soon lured to the bright lights of Paris where he studied under Michelin-rated chef Michel de Matteis before landing a prestigious post at the three-star Restaurant Taillevent, described by The New York Times as, “the best in Paris, if not all of France.” Qualin spent a year learning from celebrated chef Claude DeLigne before jumping the pond in 1990 to work for another French icon — Daniel Boulud at New York’s Le Cirque.
From 1991 to 1996, Qualin worked in Paris as Chef de Partie at famed Restaurant La Marée and again at Restaurant Taillevent before returning to New York for a stint at JoJo.. Qualin’s considerable culinary talent captured the attention of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who hired him to serve as First Sous-chef at Vongerichten’s AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Five Star Jean Georges Restaurant, the restaurant that launched Vongerichten’s growing empire.
In 2003, Qualin became the executive chef at Le Périgord, where his revisions of traditional French cooking received rave reviews from New York City’s top food critics. He later left to launch his own fine-dining restaurant, called The French Corner, in upstate New York, which was well-received by critics and locals alike. After five years away, Qualin returns to the Vongerichten fold, happy to collaborate once again with his friend and to head up what is sure to be the Valley’s best steakhouse.
Roy Pell, Executive Pastry Chef
Roy Pell is Executive Pastry Chef for The Phoenician, where he is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Pastry Department, including training and development and all bread, bakery and dessert products for the resort’s nine food outlets and banquets. Pell is a graduate of Westminster Catering College in London. He brings over fifteen years of experience in the pastry/culinary field to his position, most recently with nine years at Ritz-Carlton properties in San Francisco, St. Louis and Phoenix. Prior to that, he worked in Pastry at Harvey’s Restaurant in London, the Amway Grand Plaza in Michigan, the Savoy Hotel in London and Peter Island on the British Virgin Islands. You can see some of Chef Pell’s culinary creations throughout the resort for the holidays, including our larger-than-life gingerbread house displays.
Greg Tresner, Master Sommelier
Greg Tresner joined the Phoenician in 1998 after 15 years in the restaurant industry. He earned the distinction of becoming Arizona’s first-ever Master Sommelier by the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers, the hospitality trade’s highest recognition of wine, liquor and beverage service and professionalism.
As part of his initial duties, Tresner helped design and purchase the wine list featured at the award-winning Mary Elaine’s, The Phoenician’s former
Modern French restaurant. Two years later, the iconic establishment garnered its first “Grand Award” from Wine Spectator magazine, going on to earn its eighth such honor in 2007. Tresner also helped bring Mary Elaine’s wine service to Five Diamond/Five-Star status, resulting in James Beard Foundation nominations for “Best Wine Service” in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2007; and “Best Restaurant Service” in 2004. During this time, he worked closely with
Mary Elaine’s Chef de Cuisines Alessandro Stratta, James Boyce and Bradford Thompson; as well as Guest Chefs Roger Verge, Jacques Pépin,
Daniel Boulud and Michel Richard.
Tresner continues to foster wine service and education at The Phoenician’s contemporary American-Italian restaurant, Il Terrazzo, and throughout the AAA Five Diamond resort. He has guided numerous associates in achieving Level I, II and III Sommelier status from the Court of Master Sommeliers, in addition to serving as a Court instructor.
He is a frequent contributor to a variety of publications, serving as a featured expert in local and national magazines including Arizona Food & Life, Scottsdale magazine, Phoenix magazine, Santé, LUXE, United Hemispheres, Wine Business Monthly, Arizona Foothills and Phoenix Business Journal. He was tapped for What to Drink with What You Eat, a culinary book by the award-winning writing duo of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.
Tresner has also participated in national culinary and wine events, serving on panels for the Masters of Food and Wine Pebble Beach, Guild of Master Sommeliers and Bon Appétit magazine, as well as providing wine service for the Jackson Hole Wine Auctions. In addition, he has appeared on many local TV and radio programs.
He developed his wine and culinary experience at such award-winning restaurants as Café Terra Cotta in Tucson, Arizona, and the Flagstaff House in Boulder, Colorado.