Yes, Chef with Kristen Barnett: Friends, Family and Food – Arizona Daily Sun

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Kristen Barnett is the Executive Chef at Flag Terrior which is open Tuesday through Thursday 4-10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 4-11 p.m.
“It’s stressful, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” says Kristen Barnett of Flag Terroir. “I like being on my feet, running around. “I enjoy cooking for other people, I don’t like cooking for myself.”
Kristen Barnett is the Executive Chef at Flag Terroir, located above the Artist’s Gallery on San Francisco Street. Flag Terroir is known for their nearly five hundred different wines. Their kitchen features oysters on the half-shell, house made ice creams, creative small plates and more; all made to pair with their large selection of wines. The kitchen is entirely electric, which means that Barnett has to adapt a lot of recipes and techniques. She’s been able to craft entire menus and specialties without the equipment that the average bar kitchen would have.
Barnett attended NAU where she became immersed in the culinary and hospitality program. While grateful for the many business aspects she learned while in the program, she is most thankful for the time she spent working in the learning kitchen at the Inn at NAU. She refined her love for baking and was able to learn about food in the way that she wanted. Her love of research and learning turned into a lifelong passion for doing this with her own creative process.
“[The Inn] helped me be creative, and I knew that it had to come from me, whatever I wanted to learn. I learn every day,” says Barnett. “Working at The Inn definitely solidified that I wanted to work with food and be in a kitchen. My taste has evolved over the years. I was kind of picky as a kid, but as I started working in the restaurant industry I tried more and more.”
After the Inn, Barnett found herself in different positions as a baker and prep cook. While at Criollo, she began to roll out specials that she would research diverse Latin American cuisine and local food from the farmer’s markets. She currently uses this research still to further her love of pairing different ingredients to different styles of wines.
With a color coded notebook full of notes on flavors and pairings, Barnett’s palate and process have been shaped by the communal aspect of working in Flag Terroir. Not only does she bring her expertise and research with her, but in collaboration with her team at Terroir, the team is able to transform dishes into extraordinary experiences.
Prior to pandemic shutdowns, Barnett and her team would sit down with the three to four course dinners to narrow down wines together to pair for the meals. After the shutdowns, they’ve slowly returned to sharing their palates around wine and food.
“I love being able to create food and put flavors together that people wouldn’t think maybe go together. Being able to see the relationship here between food and wine has been really different than working elsewhere,” says Barnett. “It’s really interesting to see how the wine and food can interact and either be really terrible or really great. You can make a dish and it can be amazing and you pair the wrong wine with it and both of them are bad. Or, you can have a mediocre dish and have the perfect wine and it tastes better.”
As a child, Barnett spent a lot of time in the kitchen watching or helping her parents and grandparents cook or bake. She remembers pictures of her sitting in hi-chairs, frosting cookies or rolling crescents. When she moved to Kansas at eleven, her grandmother taught her to try food without question and process what she ate. Barnett continues this tradition with her own team, asking them to take a bite before explaining what it is.
For over seven years, Barnett has creatively pursued a passion in pairing wine with the food she creates. She practices dishes with friends and family before the meals go out at Terroir. It hasn’t always been easy, but her friends have kept her continuing forward.
Barnett says, “Somehow it doesn’t feel like it has been seven years, working with friends makes time fly by. There’s definitely people in the restaurant industry who will hop around a lot. It makes it easier [to work with people you like]. For over ten years I’ve been working with Hillary Wamble, who makes our house-made ice cream and semifreddos. Just having friends that you work with makes it a lot easier.”
Barnett and her team are always moving and changing with the seasons. From Barnett’s experiences working with local produce at the farmer’s market for Criollo, she brings that love of local to Terroir. Some favorites include working with Eat Local Tuesdays in collaboration with Flagstaff Foodlink where she created pierogis with a beet dough filled with root vegetables, wilted greens, a winter squash puree and pickled pears.
“I always really looked forward to that event,” says Barnett. “Getting to work with hyper local farms and creating specials to really highlight the local seasonal produce was so much fun, as was getting to work with some fresh produce I had never seen before, like different heirloom varieties of winter squash, and fresh blue corn.”
She currently creates weekly, two-course pairings and puts together the menu for the annual Grand Tasting, which often serves over a hundred people. What began as something as small as rolling dough became a lifetime of friendship and learning.
You can find Barnett at Flag Terroir most days. Flag Terroir’s kitchen is open Tuesday through Thursday 4-10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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Kristen Barnett is the Executive Chef at Flag Terrior which is open Tuesday through Thursday 4-10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 4-11 p.m.
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