Nine On The Line: Andrew Larkin, Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant

Andrew Larkin, head chef at Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant, began his Tucson kitchen career as a dishwasher at Michelangelo’s, where he quickly moved up to work the line before moving on to Trattoria Pina followed by Caffe Torino. Chef Larkin has also worked at Dove Mountain, Gallery Golf Club, Dove Mountain Grill, Ritz Carlton, and with Chef Ryan Clark and Chef Marcus Van Winden at Lodge on the Desert.

What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?

I would have to say Gorgonzola. Soft, blue veiny, unfamiliar smells. Once it hit my lips I knew I had no more fears.

What are you eating these days?

I love grilling chicken thighs. Jerked, smoked, asada, curry, dry-rubbed, wet-mopped. Something about drinking a beer and burning some thighs that makes everything right in the world.

What was the first dish you remember cooking?

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I was a latchkey kid, so I had the house to myself after school ‘til the time my mom would get home. At times I (may or may not have) had many friends over. One of these times I threw together some chicken, all of the cheese we had, some random herbs and slopped it on a plate, stuck a toothpick in it, and all the kids loved it. My good friend told me he could see me becoming a chef. It was all down hill from there.

What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can’t stomach?

Gluten-Free! My best friend when I was growing up, his dad had celiac disease so I saw first hand what true gluten intolerance is like—expensive and terrible cookies. He educated himself daily on food products that contain gluten just so he could avoid becoming violently ill. When we went to Italian restaurants, he would bring his own dry and flavorless pasta and request that the chef substitute his order, shamefully avoiding eye contact. Today, people throw around the word gluten-free, blindly following a trend diet just because it was featured in Oprah.

What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?

I’m very excited to be working with Ryan Clark and Brandon Dillon of Agustin Kitchen. We worked together for a few years at The Lodge on the Desert killing it nightly. I was invited to participate at Dinner with Chefs, this February 25 at 6pm at Agustin Kitchen and can’t wait to explore my creativity and bang heads with Brandon and Ryan again.

What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?

Does Marana count? Because I love me some Taco Sunday at the Circle S.

Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Crushed up Nerds candy mixed with vanilla ice cream.

Top three Tucson restaurants?

Ikkyu, Carmelo King, and D’s Island Grill.

With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?

Bacon and doughnuts.

C.J. Hamm is a native Tucsonan and has been covering the local culinary and cocktail scene since 2012.

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