Nine On The Line With Danny Perez, JW Marriott Starr Pass

Newly crowned Tucson Iron Chef Danny Perez was born in Mexico City. Arriving in Tucson at 10 years old, the cultural landscape of his upbringing heavily inspired his culinary approach.

Chef Perez began as a dishwasher in the now defunct, Café Melange, and worked his through various Tucson restaurants before obtaining his current position as Executive Chef of JW Marriott Starr Pass.

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

I’m not sure how old I was the first time I tried my grandfather’s beef tongue soup, Lengua, it but I was probably 13 when it finally clicked. It’s a texture and flavor that you really have to embrace.

What are you eating these days?

I’m loving stone fruits – peaches and plums, for example. I’ve also been ordering chicken wings anywhere I go to see what people can do with wings.

What was the first dish you remember cooking?

Enfrijoladas with my grandmother. It’s basically a refried bean sauce over corn tortillas stuffed with Chicken Tinga and Queso Fresco.

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

Flavored olive oil. There are too many options for flavors people can create at home by just buying the right olive oil blend.

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

Janos Wilder. I have done a few events with him in the past. Whenever I get a chance to play with food a little bit or chat about food with him it is a reminder that cooking from the heart with all the right intentions is the only way to cook.

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

Mexico City. There’s something about 26 million people living in one place that you just know a diversity of food will be waiting for you

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

Doughnuts. I love the old fashioned glazed ones or maple glazed.

Top three Tucson restaurants? 

Proper, Reforma, and Downtown Kitchen.

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

Without question, my grandmothers “enfrijoladas.”

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

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