Executive chef Mahmoud "Moody" Elbarasi and chef de cuisine Chris McClain at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Mahmoud “Moody” Elbarasi spent his early years as a musician exploring different restaurants across the country.
Once his band broke up, he floundered in and out of school and odd jobs for a few years before building up the courage to see if he could cut it in a professional kitchen.
Moody started as a dishwasher at Crave Culinaire in Naples, Florida, then worked his way up to sous chef. After joining the team at the Coronet as chef de cuisine, he earned the title of executive chef.
1) What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective of food?
I once had a freshly butchered lambs liver, directly from animal to grill. I was outdoors overlooking the Mediterranean on the Libyan coast. We seared it on a blazing hot stone then added a bit of salt and lime and it was the most elemental culinary experience I’ve ever had.
2) What are you eating these days?
Since I’ve moved to Tucson I’ve been floored by how ignorant I am of Sonoran cuisine. Every chance I get, I try to eat something that is native to this region.
3) What was the first dish you remember cooking?
New England clam chowder with my mother. She made the chowder and I added about 10 carrots and 10 celery sticks, probably destroying the dish.
Rigatoni Arrabbiata at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)
4) What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?
To be honest, the past six months have been about getting back to basics. Beautifully roasted vegetables, building strong balanced sauces, and trying to bring more comfort to my plates. I’ve found myself backing away from technically complex preparations and focusing on the perennial concepts.
5) Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Fergus Henderson. I’m in love with his philosophy and his style of hospitality. It’s been a dream of mine to dine at St. John for years.
6) What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Chicago was the first city I really experienced elevated dining in. Something about that bitter cold and dark city produces these warm bubbles of amazing food and conviviality. Avec, The Publican, all the little Polish bars, really too many spots to name.
7) Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
I was going to try to be clever here, but I decided to keep it honest. Zebra Cakes smashed up on cookies and cream ice cream, slathered with honey. It’s deadly.
8) Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, Za’atar, and Taqueria Pico de Gallo on the south side.
9) With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Steak au poivre, chess pie, and even though I don’t smoke, a Dunhill.
Catch Moody Elbarasi at the Coronet at 402 E. 9th St. For more information, visit cafecoronet.com.