We asked chefs: What do you enjoy most about being a chef?

Last modified on February 8th, 2018 at 11:49 am

Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) members at a Carriage House dinner (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“What do you enjoy most about being a chef?”

We asked 15 Tucson chefs this question and let them answer as briefly or in as much detail as they wanted. Here are their responses.

Tommy Begay

Sushi on Oracle
Sushi Chef Tommy Begay III at Sushi on Oracle (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Sushi Chef Tommy Begay III at Sushi on Oracle (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Honestly, it’s watching everybody’s reaction when they’re eating something new or eating a special that I made. As a sushi chef, I get to have that one-on-one with the guests sitting at the bar. I get to prepare their food while having a conversation. I enjoy feeding people. ”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Tommy Begay.

Dee Buizer

Senae Thai Bistro
Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Being a chef allows me to express my creativity through producing beautiful and delicious dishes that expose Tucsonans to the finer [aspects]of Thai cuisine. My philosophy as a chef is that the first step to pleasing the palate is by offering food that looks beautiful, that exudes a pleasing aroma, and that is served professionally in a pleasant setting. Seeing the smiles on my guest’s faces and hearing their impressions of my food makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.

Ben Caballero

HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery
Executive chef Ben Caballero at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery (Credit: CJ Hamm)

Executive chef Ben Caballero at HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery (Credit: CJ Hamm)

“I enjoy seeing people and families gather together and bond over the food I make. I’m lucky to have an open kitchen and am able to see the food touch the table. So when I see a big smile, people taking pictures of their food, and seeing them tell the person to the left of right of them ‘you have to try this,’ having a great meal can fix any bad day. And we as people always go out to celebrate over dinner. I’m grateful that a lot of them choose to come dine in with us, and thankful to be busy. There are a lot of different careers you can choose from, and if that doesn’t work out for you, people always have to eat. If you’re a chef and know how to cook, you will continue to bring happiness and smiles through your food.”

View our August 2016 Nine on the Line with Ben Caballero.

Ryan Clark

Casino Del Sol Resort
Executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Casino Del Sol Resort executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I got into cooking mainly because I didn’t want to work at Golf N’ Stuff for my entire life! I knew there was something better out there that could inspire me. Had I known then what I know now, and how much I would enjoy the whole creative process of being a chef, I would have jumped in much earlier. Being able to continually come up with recipes and dishes is a real responsibility and a challenge that I love. While there are many opportunities to create wonderful culinary experiences for the good times, there are other times when food is a special gift for those who are in need, or are experiencing stressful times. It gives me great pleasure to be able to utilize my talents for all these occasions and above all is what I enjoy the most.”

Riley Chandler

Barrio Sandwiches
Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I have always enjoyed my creative solitude in life and especially in the kitchen. There is something beautiful about just zoning out and creating something. I used to use playing music as my escape from the real world banging my drums as hard as I could, but that energy shifted entirely toward cooking as I suffered an extreme shoulder injury. I am just extremely thankful to have cooking as another way to express myself.”

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Michael Elefante

Mama Louisa’s
Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa's (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa’s (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“What I enjoy most is being able to create dishes from my soul. I’m big on cooking what the soul needs at the time.”

View our November 2016 Tools They Use with Michael Elefante.

Tyler Fenton

Reilly Craft Drink & Pizza
Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“When guests enjoy a dish. Creativity is such an important and fulfilling part of being a chef, but if a dish you’re excited about isn’t being ordered, it can be crushing. When you get excited about a dish and guests are as well, that is what it’s all about!”

View our February 2017 Nine on the Line with Tyler Fenton.

Doug Levy

Feast
Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Doug Levy at Feast (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“About being a chef in general: I like that I eat and drink well as part of both my vocation and my avocation. I also enjoy very much that Monday is my day off — I get cranky on all those holidays where everyone else gets Monday off too. It’s mine.

About my job specifically: the best part of my work for me is creating food to pair with wine. We have a 700-bottle, award-winning wine list, and we have regular wine tastings and wine dinners — and other events like special menus for New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day, where I get to taste wine and build dishes around it. There’s nothing better than making a living doing something you genuinely and completely enjoy.”

View our September 2017 Nine on the Line with Doug Levy.

David Martin

Red Desert BBQ & Catering
David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I enjoy bringing a smile to people’s faces. I enjoy experimenting and blending flavors and letting customers try them. It’s cool to come up with something totally out of the box and it all works, then it goes on the menu or as a special. Mostly enjoy making people happy with my food.”

View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.

Maria Mazon

BOCA Tacos y Tequila
Chef and owner Maria Mazon at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef and owner Maria Mazon at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I enjoy to create. My brain runs 100 miles per hour. But when I’m in the kitchen, I’m in my element.

I love to cook food that makes people happy. You know the nod of people after they take that first bit — it is priceless.

It is how I express myself, I am me in the kitchen!”

View our August 2017 Nine on the Line with Maria Mazon.

Kyle Nottingham

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa executive chef Kyle Nottingham at a Pop-Up Tucson event (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“This is a really hard question for me only because there are so many things that I love about being a chef. I grew up wanting to be an artist and was always really creative, so once I found cooking, it combined everything that I enjoyed into one profession.

I think what I enjoy most is the culture. The food culture. The ‘chef’ culture. Being in the industry has taught me so many life lessons and I think the community of people that are in this together share a common understanding of what it takes to do what we do every day. The grind and hustle of it all. It’s hard to stay in this business if you don’t love it. There is no greater feeling than shucking a perfect oyster, picking a tomato off the vine and eating it still warm from the sun, getting rocked on the line and selling your last plate, teaching others important lessons and techniques you were taught, telling a story of where the food came from that’s on the plate and what it took to get it there and so many other moments that I enjoy. The passion that is ingrained into our culture is what keeps me coming back for more.

I really love to see other creative minds build success off of this culture too. Everyone from knife forgers, clothing brands, small urban farmers, craft brewers, bread makers, coffee roasters, ceramic potters, etcetera. There’s just so many avenues to travel down with us all supporting each other and it’s truly inspiring. I am blessed to be a chef and truly fortunate to be able to belong in this culture we have created.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Travis Peters

The Parish
Executive chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Travis Peters at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Learning. I try to learn something from someone everyday whether it’s from my daughter, a new dishwasher with new ideas, a person I meet on the streets… it doesn’t matter. I assume everyone has something awesome to share and teach. Recently I’ve gotten the privilege of working with amazing chefs on my team at the Parish, Tucson, and abroad, and have learned an incredible amount. Some of us formed a group named G.U.T., or Gastronomic Union of Tucson, and it is based on working together, teaching each other, and educating fellow chefs, culinary students, and fellow foodie nerds, and since I never went to culinary school, it’s provided some really amazing culinary and life lessons!”

View our April 2017 Nine on the Line with Travis Peters.

David Solorzano

Americana Provisions
Chefs plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef David Solorzano (left) plating at a Gastronomic Union of Tucson (GUT) dinner at the Carriage House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“The camaraderie and sense of family and belonging you develop with your team, I enjoy being able to teach and mentor and seeing cooks and dishwashers grow professionally and personally. I have taken many people straight from high school and there is a ton of satisfaction when they land a job in another establishment or city, with better opportunities knowing you had a hand in it.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with David Solorzano.

Scott Volpe

Fiamme Pizza
Scott Volpe at Fiamme Pizza (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Scott Volpe at Fiamme Pizza (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“The thing I enjoy most is probably seeing the satisfaction from all of my guests, and the regular customers who know me by name and I also know by name. Seeing a dish go to the table and the end result is making the person enjoy it, become happy, and be praised is the most exciting part of being a chef for me. And also the freedom of creating an new dish or pizza every day, some of my regulars even prefer that I create something new for them every time they come back. Pizza is love and passion for me, and when someone enjoys that same love from eating my pizza is the most enjoyable part of my work.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Scott Volpe.

Janos Wilder

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails
Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Nothing beats the extraordinary sense of satisfaction that comes from a dining room full of happy guests, a service team completely coordinated, communicating and serving their guests and a brigade in the kitchen working as a polished unit preparing delicious and beautiful food. The moment when that comes together is the best.”

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
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