Dan Gibson is a 30 year-plus Tucsonan and Sahuaro High School alumni. Currently serving as Director of Communications at Visit Tucson, Gibson previously worked as online editor and editor in chief for Tucson Weekly. With solid food judging credentials, such as a Taco Festival, Salsa & Tequila Challenge, BaconFest and the Tamal Festival, Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria recently named a pizza after him.
What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
It took me awhile to really get into food (although I guess I’ve made up for lost time since). We ate mostly American standards growing up, but in high school, I started coming down to downtown before going to shows at the Downtown Performance Center and eating at Cup Café. This was a million years ago, but they had a really simple grilled cheese on rye with green chile and tomato that just blew my mind. It’s long off the menu, but it really did change my life.
What are you eating these days?
A little of everything, honestly. Just because it’s Tucson, I tend to eat more Mexican food than anything, especially since Visit Tucson has our Best 23 Miles initiative to promote the cuisine to travelers. Gotta know the product, right? Otherwise, I spend more time thinking about Korean food than anything else. I wish my budget allowed me to eat at Kimchi Time more often, for sure.
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What was the first dish you remember cooking?
I’m not sure what it was, although I didn’t really start cooking until I got married. I tried to make some tempeh dish to please a vegan guest of ours, but it didn’t pan out. I enjoy cooking, in general, but I’m a little bit of a trainwreck, dirtying every pan and over-complicating every meal I touch.
What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can’t stomach?
I’m a generally accepting guy and accept that most trends come and go, but I’m hitting my limit with highly conceptual cocktails. I appreciate house-made bitters and infused spirits, but I’m getting a little fussy now that I’m seeing drinks that I appreciate more in theory than in practice. I still love that this town has an incredible number of great talents making drinks and I applaud their innovation, and I’ll always enjoy what I get at places like Scott and Co., but I’m mostly into drinks with recipes with four ingredients or fewer these days.
What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
I wouldn’t likely cook for anyone who could be described as a chef, but I’d love to eat with Roy Choi. His choice of place and he can pick the dishes.
What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
I’m not super well-traveled, but I loved the wild variety of ethnic places in L.A. You have to appreciate a city with at least four Sri Lankan places to choose from.
Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Haribo gummi bears. Hands down.
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Top three Tucson restaurants?
Depends on the day, but I’d feel safe picking Kingfisher, The Little One and Zemam’s because they’re places that my wife and I have a connection with. There are dozens of places I really love, however. 47 Scott, Pizzeria Bianco, Boca, Pico de Gallo, Diablo Burger, Proper, Cup Café, Tania’s, Poco and Mom’s…the list goes on and on.
With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
I’m crossing my fingers for tacos, but if there’s a local beer on the side, that would certainly help.