Talking to Chef Derek Biazo is like talking to an NBA player right before the game. For one, he’s tall. I’m 6’4″ and was looking up at him ’til we sat down at the cocktail tables in the sleek bar/lobby of Alexander’s Steakhouse. And then it’s the way he talks. He talks earnestly about pushing his team, pushing himself, consistency, “executing at the highest level.”

As the new executive chef Alexander’s Steakhouse, Biazo definitely has his work cut out for him. The classy Cupertino steakhouse with a Japanese twist lost it’s Michelin star this year, though Biazo is fairly confident he knows the route to get it back. He’s in the midst of revamping the menu and cultivating that consistency required for a Michelin rating. One can tell he’s passionate about food and serious about his role as a leader, though not humorless. His biggest smile of the morning, though, was reserved for his wife Lisa and newborn baby girl Kylie, when, at the end of our interview, he asked if I could please mention them in this article.

So you’re from Kingman, Arizona originally. I looked that up on the map and it’s kind of in the middle of no where.

Yup, small town. You’re about two-and-a-half or three hours from Phoenix and about an hour-and-fifteen from Vegas.

What’s Kingman like?

You know, it’s a really quiet, small town. It’s growing, it’s not as small as some people would say, but it’s just a really chill low-key blue collar town. Grew up there until I was 18, was fortunate to be in really good schools and part of some really good cooking programs there in Arizona.

Got involved with a chef in high school there who was a [Culinary Institute of America] graduate, he worked all over the US, Las Vegas, Laughlin. He was a chef at some of the old school restaurants like the Brown Derby and Chasen’s in Hollywood. He came and started a cooking class at our high school, and the thing that kind of set us part–which was really weird especially being a small town–was our high school was one of the first to offer a fine food arts class. You know it wasn’t home ec. or anything like that. It was a fine food arts class that was basically designed to get you ready for culinary school.

So I had that my freshman year all the way through high school. He took me under his wing and he showed me all the classics like, I knew the mother sauces and stock preparation, classic dishes like chicken chasseur, steak diane, lobster thermidor. All that stuff when I was sixteen. I was very fortunate to be a part of his class and eventually got me a scholarship through a competition with him and used that to choose my culinary school and haven’t looked back since.

What’s the Arizona dining scene like compared to the Bay Area?

When I was there the first couple years, when I started cooking in the Valley [Valley of the Sun, Phoenix metro area. --Ed.], from like 2002 til when I left, 2007, it was really nice. One, it’s a resort community, so there’s tons of resorts, and there’s a lot of high-end resorts. You know, the Michelin Guide doesn’t review Arizona but if they did there would be Michelin restaurants. A lot of the restaurants there, especially like the ones I worked for, didn’t really make much money. But we had high-end clientele and there were times that were super busy. But you know we just tried to execute and put out the best food that we possibly could. There wasn’t really any limitations of the stuff that we could do.

And they’re probably not doing the farm-to-table thing as much?

Oh yeah, yeah they are. There’s a lot of good farms in Arizona, but there’s a lot of things that are slim picking. Sometimes it’s just way too hot. But there’s a lot of guys doing some farm-to-fork stuff.

I saw that you lost your Michelin star this year. Do you have any concrete plans to get that back?

I actually came in right before this place lost its star. I have my vision of the way things should be ran in this place and I think a lot of it goes back to consistency. And also keeping up with the trends and really pushing ourselves and pushing myself and demanding more out of what I do as a chef. I wanna make sure that people come in here and they’re not getting food that they had back in 2009. For me it’s about really pushing ourselves, keeping up with the trends, and executing at the highest level.

We have a lot of room to grow, but it’s not an unachievable goal. We’re gonna get it back and we’re gonna do it, I’m positive about that. I came in in April and I wish I would of had this title a little bit sooner, but I’m still trying to do what I can and push my team to make the changes that I can within these next seven months. If we can get the star back for 2015, great. If it doesn’t happen, we’re still at least gonna be Michelin recommended and we’re gonna be on the radar for next year.

Last question: what’s your favorite place to eat? What’s your one dollar sign place and your four dollar sign place?

Okay, let’s see. If I was just gonna grab some good dinner with my wife, not dress up or anything like that: Back-a-Yard. They have one in Menlo Park and one in downtown San Jose. That is the best carrribean food, jerk chicken… That guy knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s always busy. I’ve never had a bad meal there. It’s super good.

And you know, if I was gonna go to a let’s say a repeat fine dining establishment, would probably have to be Boulevard or Jardiniere. Both those chefs over there do tremendous food, service is great. I love it every time I go.

The preceding conversation has been edited for length and clarity.