Owner and chef Wendy Garcia from Tumerico is a master of feel-good comfort food.
Garcia grew up on a farm in Hermosillo, Mexico, then moved to Tucson during her teenage years. After working in joints such as Feast and Primo Tucson, she opened Tumerico.
While Tumerico started as a health-focused caterer, food cart, and farmers market stand, it's now also a brick and mortar restaurant at 2526 E. Sixth St. With all of that on Garcia's plate, she still somehow musters the energy to yell a warm greeting from the kitchen to everyone that walks in the door.
The energy makes its way to the dishes, which are especially revitalizing when paired with the free coffee she rotates from Exo Roast Co., Yellow Brick Coffee, and Presta Coffee Roasters.
"My dad was an amazing chef-farmer-hunter. He taught me how to make machaca since he loved it so much..."
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
Pasta – the whole process. It was amazing to learn how to make fresh pasta, from breaking the eggs [and] mixing the flour [to] getting flour all over me. From dry pasta to fresh noodles, it changed things.
2) What are you eating these days?
Turmeric, spicy soups, saffron, rice noodles, avocado.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
Mexican elk jerky (machaca). My dad was an amazing chef-farmer-hunter. He taught me how to make machaca since he loved it so much and used to eat it every morning when possible. So yes, I was making machaca for my dad. I enjoyed learning the whole process with slicing, curing, drying, shredding. It involved much care, love, and patience.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
Saffron, cardamom, plantains, jicama, and the amazing epazote, which is used on most all moles and has a very distinctive flavor.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Melissa Kelly from Primo. Doug Levy from Feast. Pat Connors from Pastiche, rest in peace — he was an amazing person and chef. And yes, I secretly desired to have espresso, whiskey, and habanero tacos with Tony Bourdain, rest in peace.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
I wouldn't really know. I do love small cities where I can find a señora making old school food by hand, just like it was passed to her through generations. Oaxaca, Chiapas.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Won't lie, French fries, tortilla chips, and salsa.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Time Market, Char's Thai Restaurant, and Diablo Burger.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Guacabaqui soup from my nana, an old Yaqui recipe. I grew up eating her soup — nobody makes it like that anymore. Entrée — underground cooked potato and green olive barbacoa with extra spicy salsa and handmade corn tortillas.
Find Wendy Garcia at Tumerico, Tuesdays through Saturday at 2526 E. Sixth St. For more information visit tumerico.com.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...