A passion for food: Pioche Food Group hosts a fine dining experience

A passion for food:  Pioche Food Group hosts a fine dining experience


The Navajo-owned and family-operated food business, Pioche Food Group, served a nine-course meal to seven couples on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14, at Casa Blanca Inn.

Guests came from the Four Corners area hearing about the dinner through friends, family, and social media. A few of them were regular customers of PFG.

PFG serves primarily traditional Navajo food with a fine dining experience. But on Valentine’s Day, PFG’s Executive Chef Justin Pioche and his sister, Tia Pioche, decided to serve their guests something a bit more romantic.

“If I were on a date,” Justin Pioche said, “this is the type of food I would like to see on the menu.”

The nine-course meal included Navajo tea, cold onion soup, butter leaf and red leaf squash, elk puffed pastry, intermezzo, bread, pheasant and chocolate, and strawberries.

Justin and Tia, PFG’s food service manager, enjoy serving many people creatively. The pop-up dinners by PFG are an experience that the siblings put their heart and soul in.

“It’s grown a little more into a dining experience where we can basically show off our talents,” Justin Pioche said, “Our skills and our passion for food, for serving and the food hospitality food industry.”

A fine dining experience

Navajo Times | Cyrus Norcross
Tia Pioche adds edible flowers to the third course, butter leaf & red leaf, on Valentine’s Day.

The guests in attendance came from all walks of life: farmers, industrial engineers, Navajo Agricultural Products Industry workers, teachers, and more.

Navajo Times | Cyrus Norcross
Executive Chef Justin Pioche of Pioche Food Group pours Navajo tea for his guests. The Valentine’s Day dinner took place at Casa Blanca Inn & Suites in Farmington.

Many of the guests have been following the Pioche Food Group and were waiting for the opportunity to sit down at one of PFG’s pop-up dinners again.

Lacy DeJulio and her significant other, Jasmine Mordecki, were excited to enjoy a fine dining experience once again.

“My first experience with Justin and the Pioche Food Group was so fantastic,” DeJulio said. “I love that he makes this a family event. He starts the meal with a prayer, welcomes us, blesses us, blesses over the food, and really talks about each item that is on his list.

“You can just see the passion,” she said “of where he got the turnips, where he brought in special ingredients; each dish is broken down very intelligently, creatively, and with love.

“Our first experience, by the third course, there was an emotional charge that came through, and I broke down in tears,” she said. “We both did, tonight was absolutely wonderful.

“For him wanting to bring us into his own culture and bring in qualities of his Navajo past,” she said, “I feel very blessed to be a part of it.”

Cherilyn Yazzie of Farmington and her husband were overwhelmed by the food.

“The menu has parsnips, pheasants – we don’t do things like that,” Yazzie said. “Usually we have one-pot meals, everybody eats together but this one, you’re experiencing it.

“We had the cold onion soup, and it was tasting those flavors one at a time, you’re really paying attention to how it is presented,” she said. “We don’t do that when we cook. It’s always just, ‘All right, everybody eat!’

“I think it’s really good that we have more of our Navajo people really trying to start a business,” she said. “On the rez, when you try to tap in and get help from our tribal government to push for economic development or any program, it’s taking them too long to do that.

“I think there is a lot of creativity in our Navajo people,” she said. “It’s evident in, you can see it in the crafts.

“What was here is just cooking, but he is playing with food and the flavors of it,” she said. “He is able to turn it into a business.”

“That business is going to take care of him as he moves forward in whatever career he does, taking care of his family, paying bills; those things are important,” Yazzie said. “It’s really good to see small businesses starting up.”

A successful venture

Navajo Times | Cyrus Norcross
Tia and Justin Pioche embrace each other after a successful Valentine’s Day Dinner.

Tia Pioche was happy with the turnout: the work put into the dinner and how the food came out.

“It went really good,” she said. “I was really nervous because we have new people who joined us this time.

“We usually have our regulars return,” she said, “those are people who love to get food; a lot of them are tired of the scene of corporate restaurants, which is all that is out here.

“I’m just really grateful being in this program, being in this business with my brother and also with my mom,” she said.

The siblings will have pop-up dinners in the future; they cater and are looking to host huge dinners.

The siblings are keeping their eyes open for opportunities for huge dinners, such as the Farmington mayor’s ball, and are looking at serving food at Coachella.

The Pioche Food Group can be booked on its Instagram: @PiocheFoodGroup

About The Author

Cyrus Norcross

Cyrus Norcross is a full-time staff photographer for the Navajo Times.


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