Nine On The Line With Chef Ken Harvey of Loews Ventana Canyon

Ken Harvey, Executive Chef of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, found his love for food as an 18 year old working in the produce section of a grocery store in Texas. Trying so many new fruits and veggies as part of his duties, Chef Ken was hooked. After graduating from The Art Institute’s culinary school in Austin, Chef Harvey worked for Ritz-Carlton in both Colorado and California before landing in Tucson. He’s also worked for Hacienda del Sol, as well as the JW Marriot Starr Pass before settling at Loews in 2007.

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

I remember when I first started cooking at the St. Regis Hotel in Houston. I spent over a year in the raw bar shucking oysters before they let me on the line. What really changed my direction was doing an event in Dallas at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, and seeing Dean Fearing’s team take comfort food to the next level with “Paper Bag Shacked Fried Chicken & Oysters.” I know it sounds weird, but up until this point I had only worked with the best products and ingredients. I never even thought to take something so simple, cook it perfectly and serve it beautifully.

What are you eating these days?

Grains, fish and for the last few weeks a lot of beef jerky.

What was the first dish you remember cooking?

Growing up I would watch Great Chefs of the West, and one of the first things that I really tried to cook was a recipe from the show. I was around 12 years old when I attempted Roasted Peaches & Chicken with Sherry. How did it turn out? Do you remember how your first attempt at cooking went? LOL.

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

I never really got on the fermented foods bandwagon.

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

My mentor and lifelong friend Marc Ehrler. I always look forward to the day when we can share another day in the kitchen. We have five senses, but when you get the opportunity to be with him in a kitchen you will soon learn that you need 6 to be successful.

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

Austin, Texas!

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

Summer in Tucson: Watermelon Eegees and Star Kisses from DQ (the red, white and blue ones).

Top three Tucson restaurants?

Pasco, Penca, and Agustin Kitchen.

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

My mom’s chicken chow mein.

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

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