Chef Maria Mazon was born in Tucson, grew up in Navajoa, Sonora, then returned to Tucson at age 15.
Mazon's career in the food industry actually began in the front of the house as a server at Papagayo Mexican Restaurant and Cantina. After stumbling into Papagayo's kitchen and discovering a passion for cooking, she opened a catering company with no formal culinary training before opening BOCA Tacos y Tequila in 2010.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
Well I can't tell you the exact dish, but I do remember when I was in high school, going to a "Mexican restaurant" and thinking that someone needs to do it right. I was born here but I grew up in Mexico, and believe me, we don't use the yellow cheese and sour cream, so I wanted to do something to show real Mexican food and many, many, many years later, here I am.
2) What are you eating these days?
I'm a soup person. I don't care if is burning hot outside. I want soup. Also, we do a lot of grilling at home. Ugly steak from Dickman's Meat & Deli is the way to go. And salads are easy and good.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
First dish was a "Mexican cioppino" and I got hooked.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
I'm not a trend lady. But I like to cook and do fusions and incorporate different flavors and spices you don't see often in Mexican cuisine. I'm trying to get my hands on different ingredients and herbs I don't usually use and learn to use them.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
¡Madre Santa! My grandmother for sure. Even though she never never cooked a day in her life.
In the chef's world, it's easy: Enrique Olvera, José Andrés, and Dominique Crenn.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Uy, Puerto Rico is awesome but nothing like my Mexico. ¡Arriba Sonora!
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Papitas preparadas. I know, very Mexican of me! Cóctel de elote.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Kingfisher, Saffron Indian Bistro, and Pho 88. A little of everything. I like to support local, of course.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
I said it once - it has to be from my hometown: Sonoran hot dogs, gorditas y tostadas, and for dessert a raspado. Oh, and a crab tostada —I'm allergic to shellfish, so might as well.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...