AKA Deli & Bakeshop executive pastry chef Jaime Lawhorn got her start in the food industry working a front-of-the-house position while living in Las Vegas.
But her path afterward eventually led to culinary school, baking at Le Buzz, and working as a personal chef. During a stint at AKA sister restaurant Agustin Kitchen, Lawhorn segued into aka Deli & Bakeshop as executive pastry chef where she also whips up the desserts for Agustin Kitchen and the Coronet.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
This is a toughie. I think for me it wasn’t a dish that had changed my perspective, but rather a moment. When I was young, probably about 12, my stepdad bought a rutabaga and challenged me to cook something with it. That moment made me think a lot. From that point I gained inspiration from everything and everywhere. Even now most things I eat change my perspective one way or another whether it’s how something was prepared, where the ingredients were grown or how much love was put into it.
2) What are you eating these days?
Tacos, burritos. I also love sushi. Oh, and burgers. Did I mention carbs?
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
After my inspirational rutabaga I used to set up “restaurants” for my parents when they came home from work in the living room. Themes, decorations, menu, the whole nine. The first thing I remember ever actually producing that I had on their menus was a red snapper dish with an orange marmalade sauce.
Since I am a pastry chef, the first pastry thing I ever remember making was pies. I used to get so frustrated at the age of 13ish with my crusts not turning out.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
I try to stay away from trends and just make what feels good, but right now I would say that I am playing with some savory influences/ spices in my bagel production. As far as pastries go I always lean towards a less is more in sweetness.
There is really no rhyme or reason to my experimentation, I get inspired from varying sources and I have to make what’s in my head.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
My husband Mickey. I love to collaborate with him and we always have a good time when we cook and eat together.
A close second would be Anthony Bourdain, to pick his brain would be fun. If we cook it would obviously be savory since he has a very vocal disdain for pastry chefs.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Some of my fondest food memories come from Santa Cruz, California. There is some pretty amazing food there; especially sushi and burritos from Chill Out Cafe. Santa Cruz is my happy place and eating there is very much an emotional thing.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Hands down, Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream. I could eat the whole pint. And I have. On several occasions.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
I don’t get out much, but when I do:
- Barrio Bread, Don makes some amazing bread.
- Cup Cafe, I love breakfast and this is my favorite place.
- Seis Kitchen, bacon tacos.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Sushi, cheeseburger with onion rings, see question #7, rib eye, red wine, and for good measure I’d throw in a mixed green salad with miso dressing. This last meal lasts 48 hours right?