Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Believe it or not, executive chef Doug Levy started out as a pizza delivery boy. Levy worked his way into the pizza kitchen, before continuing on to Tucson classics such as Café Terra Cotta, Boccata, Ventana Grill, and the Dish.
With all that Tucson fine dining training under his belt, he moved on to open his own restaurant, Feast. With a menu that changes monthly, Levy gets away with heavy experimentation and creating one-of-a-kind dishes such as Baby Octopus Two Ways with barigoule, house-made bacon, fresh mint, and cocoa-fried chickpeas.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
When I was working at Café Terra Cotta, Jeff Azersky (of Kingfisher) had just come to Tucson to take over as chef de cuisine, and he made a dish that was so completely simple but so well executed, I took the first step in understanding that sometimes less is more. It was a cornmeal-crusted sea bass resting on a smoked tomato sauce. It was one of the reasons I started to consider cooking as a long-term career.
2) What are you eating these days?
The heat has been making our levain go crazy, so I’ve been baking may more bread than I can comfortably consume. It varies in quality from amazing to tragic. It varies in quantity from too much to way too much.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
When my brother, who’s also a chef, and I were kids, maybe five or six and seven or eight years old, respectively, we found a popover recipe and made it relentlessly. I can still remember that it was on page 89 of a cookbook called Our Daily Bread.
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
At work, we’re messing with bread. Ever since Bob Petersen moved away (he was the pastry chef at Cuvée and baked our bread), we haven’t been able to do custom breads like the buttermilk rolls for our fried calamari sandwich with smoked blackberry aioli and tomato jam. So I guess it’s up to us now.
At home, it’s mold. The health department would frown on our growing koji at Feast so I’m doing it at home.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
All this talk of Jeff and my brother Mitch makes dinner with them sound fun. The three of us worked together at Café Terra Cotta about 30 years ago, and at Boccata about 26 or 27 years ago. I’d love to cook with them both together again without someone yelling at us that we were behind.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Five years ago, it was San Francisco, hands down, but L.A. is close and real estate is more affordable, so younger people without big backers or preconceived notions are able to set up shop there. There’s lots to see.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Sweet: chocolate chip cookies. I’ll eat them until I’m ill. Savory: bread, even crappy bread, with European-style butter. Again, until I’m ill, or steeped in regret.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Daily, or nearly daily, I go to Crave Coffee Bar for coffee. It’s my neighborhood spot — the owners are kind, talented and hospitality-minded. And they just started serving crêpes.
Way less often, but only because I work a lot, I go to BOCA Tacos y Tequila. Maria is one of my favorite cooks in Tucson. Also in the universe.
I also get baba ganoush, hummus and za’atar bread from Za’atar Mediterranean Restaurant.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
It’s most likely uni. I don’t eat nearly as much sea urchin as I want, so I have a lot of lost sea urchin eating to make up for. Either that or the pasta alla puttanesca that my wife only ever makes anymore if it’s my birthday. And some tahini chocolate chip cookies.
Feast is located at 3719 E Speedway Blvd. For more information, visit eatatfeast.com.