Executive chef Justin Macy at Tanque Verde Ranch (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Tanque Verde Ranch executive chef Justin Macy started out at a pizza joint and McDonald’s.
At age 17, he lucked into a job within the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa kitchen and made it from the bottom all the way to executive chef. He even helped attract national attention and cooked for Oprah when she visited. Casual Food Network and the Cooking Channel also help.
Now at the Tanque Verde Ranch, Macy whips up cuisine that manages to be both comforting and healthy. While the menus will rotate weekly, guests can consistently expect new yet distinctly southwestern dishes such as chili honey glazed salmon with cotija whipped sweet potatoes. If you have the chance to book one of the private six course Chef Dinners with wine, do it.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
The first dish that changed my perspective on food would have to be black rice with squid and scallops in a coconut curry sauce. Not something I would have normally eaten way back then, but the flavors were amazing.
2) What are you eating these days?
I used to be a meat and potato kind of guy. Nowadays, I eat everything and cover all regions of food.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
The first dish I remember cooking was when I was 17 and doing a working interview at Miraval. I had never cooked in my life, and the chef asked me to make him a dish. Scared and nervous, I grabbed some peppers and onions, found some cooked chicken and made a little stir-fry to the best of my ability. I think it came out okay, but for an unbiased answer, you’d have to ask chef Steve.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
At one time, I was always experimenting to try to keep up with what’s trendy and hot in the food industry. Nowadays, I just try and stay local and do my own thing. Trends come and go, but good food is never forgotten.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
My wife, Kim. We rarely get the chance to cook and eat dinner together, so we really appreciate the opportunity when it comes around. With us both being chefs, it’s hard to be home together at the same time.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
New York City. Like they say, you can never have a bad meal there. Rossini’s Restaurant is my favorite place to dine out at whenever I visit.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Kit Kat candy bars! My daughter hides them from me because she knows I’ll eat them all when I get home!
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Not many. I never have the time to really dine out. This might sound strange, but I love Baggin’s Gourmet. The southwest cheesesteak is amazing. Noble Hops has a fantastic atmosphere and cocktails, too.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
I would have to say my last meal would include a La Gloria Cubana Cigar and glass of Booker’s Bourbon finished with a Kit Kat.