Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Chef de Cuisine Kyle Nottingham from Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa can blow your mind with high-end dishes like sous vide lobster with kimchi, charred scallion, quail egg, and miso butter. His background at Canyon Ranch Lenox and Loews Ventana Canyon Resort certainly helped hone his distinct elegant and colorful plating.
However, he can also throw it down with more approachable dishes like bacon guacamole when he’s cooking in the food truck Prey Libations & Supper. While Prey is on a break until the summer, don’t miss out on the opportunity to try out Nottingham’s modern, beautiful cuisine at Miraval. He’s also the special guest chef for the upcoming Pop-Up Tucson dinner.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective of food?
I ate at Craft NYC several years ago and it was my first dining experience in the city. We had a ton of food but the dish that stuck out to me was a side of roasted foraged mushrooms that were plated simply in a copper Staub. My love for mushrooms sparked then. The dish was so simple but the umami bomb that came with each bite was really exciting. It wasn’t necessarily just the food that made that memory, it was the atmosphere and the story that went along with the food. They gave me a tour of the kitchen after dinner service and from that moment on, I realized what a dining experience should feel and taste like. After that dinner I was like, damn, I need to get better.
2) What are you eating these days?
I love going out to eat for breakfast. Me and my wife usually find ourselves on the weekends rotating Prep & Pastry, hitting all the food at Mercado San Agustin (Seis Kitchen, La Estrella Bakery, Presta Coffee Roasters), Cup Cafe, Le Buzz and anywhere else I can get my hands on pastries and coffee.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
My first official dish I cooked in a kitchen was under my uncle Eric who was an executive chef in Key West, Florida. He sent his whole crew on vacation and flew me out to cook alongside with him for a couple weeks in the summer. I made some seared red snapper dish with a tomato caper broth and basically every other dish that was on the menu. It was the craziest two weeks of my life but I got the best taste of what it was like to be in a real kitchen and never looked back.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
Kimchi! It seems like all of Tucson is on a heavy fermentation kick and I understand why, but I really like cooking from what our garden offers us and using parts of a plant or vegetable that isn’t usually used. I love foraging and exploring so anytime I can bring the wilderness aspect to a dish and tell a story about how we harvested it, it makes cooking that much more meaningful.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
I would absolutely love to eat with Rene Redzepi or cook with him in his test kitchen. The way he approaches building a menu from the perspective of a landscape or ecosystem is fascinating. Eat some ants, ya know?
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
I lived in the Berkshires in Massachusetts for a couple of years and even though it was just a cluster of small towns, it had some truly inspiring places to eat. I would go out to eat and feel a competitive drive to cook better. I felt inspired by the way everyone had their own style. Farm-to-table isn’t so much a concept around there, it’s their lifestyle. There was no reason to use anything that didn’t grow practically in their backyard. It seemed silly to outsource anything that wasn’t in season or local. The farmers truly cared about the food and had the same passionate mentality as the chefs did. You’d find yourself sitting next to Dan Barber with his wife and children on a Wednesday night at some small funky restaurant (this really happened).
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
North Italia, Prep & Pastry, and Ikkyu. I don’t have a ton of time to eat out, but when I do, these are always a solid go-to.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Oysters, caviar, Iberico ham, truffles, uni, champagne, and the biggest bowl of Momofuku ramen I could get. I think I’d die a happy man.