Heather Lakey has got it good. As the soda jerk at Proof, a new concept restaurant at the Four Season Resort in north Scottsdale, she is the creator of delectable desserts, frosty floats and so much more.
However, her path to this place was not lined in gumdrops. She first studied communications, receiving her B.S. degree from ASU and then her Masters in Global Management, wanting to follow in her father’s degreed footsteps, who holds two Masters in Education.
It wasn’t until 13 years later, and positions like inside sales of the pieces and parts of cell phones, business to business sales and even varicose vein technology, when she realized she wasn’t doing what she really loved.
The kitchen was calling. So while still working and teaching communications at the University of Phoenix, she enrolled in the Arizona Culinary Institute program. She immediately fell in love with the small class sizes, hands on work and the opportunity to learn both the front and back ends of the restaurant business.
And lucky for Heather, the Four Seasons is a big fan of the AZ Culinary Institute too, hiring many of their graduates and students. The Four Seasons offered her a position at the north Troon location and Heather jumped at the opportunity.
But it didn’t land her in chocolate mousse right away; she had to work her way up several culinary steps. Her first gig: working in the banquet kitchen making appetizers and the Omelet Bar during weekend brunch. She also worked with Chef Lance of Talavera, the upscale restaurant at Troon and voted one of the valleys best in Phoenix Magazine, and as part of the kitchen staff and at the now closed Crescent Moon, doing everything from production and banquets including making wedding cakes. Six years later, when the idea of Proof started coming together, Heather was asked if she’d like to be part of the Proof team.
Here’s where the paths of planning and opportunity crossed and Heather found her self in the sweet spot. Because the restaurant and it’s concept of down-home meals with southern flare was new and untried as part of the Four Seasons eateries, Heather was able to take classic treats like cheesecake and update them match current trends and tastes.
The original cheese cake recipe is the one she used to make with her grandmother, right out of the Knudsen cookbook. But like everything else in the Four Season playbook, the goal is to make what ever it is – from the hotel experience to the floats – better.
So Heather experiments with food, working to find a way to make everything she creates, better. It’s all in the details. Take her Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies for instance. Are they better if the butter is soft, cold or melted? And even if she won’t reveal her secret, they are the best ever.
For the summer, Heather created 100-calorie desserts in celebration of the Arizona summers of 100+ degree heat. Okay, “celebration” of the heat might be a bit much, but her desserts were certainly cool. My personal favorite was the Cucumber Cooler, made with cucumber, melon, yogurt and soda. It was refreshing, different and didn’t bring on the guilt or girth of say, a slice of the Triple Layer Chocolate Toffee Crumble Cake. Yes, I compared the two. But when you’re on vacation, who cares about guilt or girth?
Even though the heat of summer has yet to pass, Heather is working on the fall menu. She’s already thinking about things like pumpkin, nutmeg and pie, while we’re all still thinking about sun tans (or burns) and tubing the Salt River. Each new idea has to be tried and tested, and no one, from the kitchen staff to upper management, misses dessert testing day.
But that’s what it takes to keep a restaurant running smooth, knowing what’s coming long before it’s supposed to be here. And fall will be here before we know it.
Whether you live in the valley of the sun full time, or you visit our fine state during “the season,” make it a point to visit Proof, and say hi to Heather. She’s the one behind the soda fountains, surrounded by all sorts of sweet things, and making them sweeter.