Chef Izaak Morhaim learned the ways of home-style Mexican cuisine from his mother, growing up in Nogales, Arizona.
At age 17, Morhaim landed a job at Harvest Restaurant, then moved to Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. Afterward, he worked the kitchens of Jax Kitchen, Maynards Market & Kitchen, Prep & Pastry, Acacia Real Food & Cocktails, Skyline Country Club, and Lodge on the Desert before landing the executive chef position at the recently opened Jackson Bar + Eatery.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
The first dish I had that changed my perspective was an amuse-bouche at Hacienda Del Sol. One of my favorite chefs ever, Brandon Hamm, dipped mini grapes in a blue cheese simple syrup. It was like fireworks in my mouth — it hit every note. I decided at that moment I wanted to be chef forever and give people that same experience.
2) What are you eating these days?
I eat all kinds of stuff — my wife is an amazing cook. We cook a lot at home, mostly her. We’re all about cooking with more vegetables these days, trying to stay healthy. I also try as many of the local restaurants in Tucson that I can.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
I remember cooking a lot with my mom when I was a kid baking breads and cookies, etcetera. However, the most memorable dish I remember cooking was a Double Check Ranch burger in Terraza’s kitchen. One of the cooks would make me a burger every night. One of those nights Ramiro Scavo said no, you make it yourself. It wasn’t as good as his but I was 17 and it was perfect — blue cheese, chiles, and bacon.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
As far as trends, I really love highlighting Tucson — very local food like cholla buds, mesquite flour, and nopales are some of my favorites. The slow food farm-to-table trend is where it’s at. I also have been cooking a lot with beer and making amazing pairings with my boy Sherwood and sous chef Olivia Duffett.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
I would really love to cook and eat with Grant Achatz or Gordon Ramsay. Both are amazing chefs and their books changed me for the better as a chef. Humble Pie changed my perspective on Ramsay, now he’s one of my favorites. They both have worked with the best in the world.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Anywhere in Mexico. I love the culture and food there, always will.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Chocolate and coffee are the way to my heart for sure. I’m a sweets kind of guy.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
A flatbread and Father Kino from Pasco. Not even a question in my mind about 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...