Originally a fine arts major, Penca executive chef David Solorzano discovered his love of the kitchen while working at his uncle’s restaurant The Greens in Green Valley.
From there, Solorzano worked his way up from washing dishes at small Italian restaurants to working as a line cook in cities such as Phoenix, Guadalajara, and Valdez, Alaska. While immersed in these cities, he was exposed to the seasonal ingredient-driven cuisine and how good simple dishes can be when the chef allows ingredients to speak for themselves.
Once back in Tucson, Solorzano worked under chefs Chad Luethje and Justin Macy at Miraval Resort learning how great simple substitutions and vegetable-driven dishes can be. Afterward, he opened and operated Animal Farm, a food truck which focused on showcasing seasonal local produce and meat. Additionally, he did pop-up dinners around Tucson by the name of Americana Provisions.
Next, Solorzano worked under executive chef Bruce Yim at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort as chef de cuisine where he worked with local purveyors to showcase the bounty of Southern Arizona.
Now at Lodge on the Desert, Solorzano will continue his passion for ingredient-driven cuisine and work with local high schools to help guide younger generation of cooks and push the evolution of the industry.
[07/05/2019 update:] Solorzano is now executive chef at Penca.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
A simple pasta dish with capers and tomato when I worked with a couple Italian guys from New York. I learned how great three to four ingredient dishes could be.
2) What are you eating these days?
As much Indonesian food from my girlfriend’s mom I can get.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
Pickled pig’s trotter with my grandmother. The smell of vinegar still brings me back
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
I am not much to follow trends, but color and texture are two things I love in dishes. A chef once told me that good food is monochromatic and that pushes me to prove him wrong.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Hands down Jean-Louis Palladin. Watching him when I was coming up was very inspiring and I would love to pick his brain and cook with him.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Haven’t traveled as much as I would like to, but Guadalajara was pretty amazing.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
I love doughnuts, anything from Entenmann’s chocolate-covered to the new Amy’s Donuts German Chocolate.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Seis Kitchen is awesome, I have known Jake and Erika Muñoz from my food truck days and they are great people with equally good food. Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar down on 4th, Matt Kraiss has a crazy good palate and has an amazing drive I look forward to what he will become I believe he will be unstoppable. Last but not least, OBON Sushi Bar Ramen — it’s on everyone’s list for a reason Paulo Im is a bad ass.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Tomato braised beef tongue, simple roasted chicken, macaroni salad and either German chocolate cake or yuzu chiffon cake. I would die happy after that.
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...