Elvira’s beverage manager Eric Harding began his drink-pouring career as a bartender at Red Lobster, That stint evolved into a 12-year career traveling as a corporate bar trainer opening new Red Lobster restaurants around the country.
Harding then transitioned to Casino Del Sol Resort, where he learned more about the hotel and gaming side of hospitality. Additionally, he tapped into his creative side to create cocktails under Aaron DeFeo’s cocktail program at PY Steakhouse.
With a recent move to beverage director at Elvira’s, Harding’s aim is to refine the cocktails and showcase the wide agave selection.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
I spent the early part of my grade school years in France. That alone changed my perspective on food. If I had to pick one dish, though, I would say steak frites. The way that it’s prepared so simply with a bit of maître d’ butter on top of the steak and crispy fries just cannot compare to anything else. Living in France and experiencing that rich history allowed me to develop a greater understanding of food and how it relates to people and culture.
2) What are you eating these days?
These days I’m eating a lot of Mexican food, but I always have. I just love the freshness and simplicity of the preparation that can result in such complex flavors and textures. Mexican cuisine really lends well to the heat here in Tucson. I think it’s true what they say about chiles and how it cools you off
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
Besides macaroni and cheese from the box, probably fried rice. My mom is a really good cook and makes some really great dishes but the first thing she really taught me how to make was fried rice.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
I like to travel and use that as a means of creating new ideas for what I can use to put into drinks. It can come from anything such as food, drink, people, or scenery. For me travel really opens my mind and hopefully I can offer some of those elements in a cocktail glass for others to experience the same things that I have on my travels.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
I would like to cook with my mom because we used to cook together all the time when I was growing up but now that I’ve moved away and we don’t see one another as often, it’s very rare.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
I might offend a lot of other cities that are contenders but I’d have to say New York City. It’s got the most diverse cuisines available in the least amount of square miles that are really authentic. The only thing holding me back from eating all that great food is my wallet and my stomach.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Five rolled tacos with guacamole and cheese. Easiest question on here to answer.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
This is not scientific, but I would have to say 47 Scott, Red’s Smokehouse + Tap Room, and Cup Cafe. There’s so many others, but they all have three things in common: great people, great food, and great bars.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Duck three ways. Duck confit, duck breast seared to medium rare in the middle, and seared foie gras. Also, a nice bottle of DRC to go with it. Second easiest question.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran’s Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...