Chef Armando Duarte Leads Local Chefs in Providing Gourmet Thanksgiving Dinners to Families in Need

Armando Duarte is a humble chef with a unique position. He works at Click Cafe in the Jim Click Ford of Sahuarita & Green Valley, where most of the menu is salads and sandwiches.

Although the morning is busiest due to the nearby miners wanting a modest breakfast, Duarte still experiments in the kitchen.

“I like every style of cooking,” Duarte said. “When I’m home, I’m stuck on my phone looking at YouTube videos of food.”

Food curiosity has led Duarte to create his own take on trendy items such as the pho-rrito and rainbow bagels. Foodie-friendly items such as soft shell crab po’ boy and bacon jam flatbreads make an occasional appearance as the special of the day. He even orders short rib blend patties from high-end meat distributor Pat LaFrieda for his Friday burger specials.

One of the most unique quirks for Duarte is the early hours. Even as a chef, he’s out of the cafe by 1 p.m. and has weekends off. However, his work doesn’t stop there.

Community involvement has always been a priority for Duarte. He volunteered for 10 years with Miracle on 31st Street, a charitable organization in Tucson that provides toys to children who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods. This year, he’s starting a new annual Thanksgiving tradition with Chefs Feeding Families.

Working with Casa de los Niños, Duarte was connected to a handful of families in need.

“One of the families doesn’t even have a stove,” Duarte said.

He then reached out to some local chefs, who will prepare gourmet Thanksgiving meals and deliver them directly to the families.

Chef de Cuisine Adrian Castillo at Elvira's Restaurant Tequila Cocina Vino (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef de Cuisine Adrian Castillo at Elvira’s Restaurant Tequila Cocina Vino (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I’m very excited and feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can lend a hand to this great community we live in,” said Adrian Castillo, Chef de Cuisine at Elvira’s Restaurant Tequila Cocina Vino. “It starts with the individual and I choose to love and show my four daughters that love is the only way. I show people I love and care for them by cooking. I’m a chef and this is what we do.”

Castillo has also already connected with the family he’s cooking for.

“I talked to the mother and got some insight on the family. We decided to do a traditional dinner with an Elvira’s Tucson twist – a mashed potato dish with roasted chile de arbol, roasted poblanos, and lots of Oaxaca cheese. It’s a play on a dish I learned when working for Ryan Clark.”

Chef Travis Peters at the Parish is another excited participant.

“I am honored to be able to donate food to anyone who may be in need because at times my family was one of the families that were in need and a stranger we never met helped us,” Peters said. “That is how the world is supposed to work in my opinion.”

The family of six Peters is cooking for will also receive a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but with Peters’ signature touch.

“Everything is made from scratch. For example, we made mushroom soup first so that our green bean casserole was like mom’s but on steroids. The fried turkeys are brined for 30 hours and then fried and seasoned with our house Creole seasoning. The smoked ones are brined for 72 hours, then mesquite-smoked and seasoned in our brisket rub.”

Executive Chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Duarte will provide a traditional Thanksgiving feast, while Chef Ernesto Guzman from Cuban Blaze Restaurant will provide a Cuban feast via Cuban pork pernil, black beans and rice, tostones, yuca, maduros, and Cuban coleslaw. Lindon Reilly, owner of Lindy’s on 4th, will provide a bacon wrapped turkey, candied cranberries and butternut squash with a crumble top, bacon garlic Parmesan French green beans with a fried onion topping, and assorted traditional sides and desserts.

Participating Chefs

  • Adrian Castillo from Elvira’s Restaurant Tequila Cocina Vino
  • Armando Duarte from Click Cafe
  • Ernesto Guzman from Cuban Blaze Restaurant
  • Frank Santos from Frankie’s Cheesesteaks
  • Lindon Reilly from Lindy’s on 4th
  • Travis Peters from the Parish

Follow Chef Armando Duarte on Instagram.

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Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.

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