We asked chefs: What is your favorite seasoning?

Last modified on May 11th, 2018 at 10:14 am

“What’s your favorite seasoning (aside from salt)?”

We asked 11 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)

“Yuzu kosho. It’s a Japanese seasoning made with chili, yuzu (Japanese citrus) zest, salt, and pepper. Its flavor is bright and spicy. I use it on whitefish mostly, but it can be used with everything.”

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

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)

“Ancho chile powder. The chiles are roasted, dehydrated, and ground — the flavor is rich and earthy with a touch of pepper. It’s a great addition to beef of any kind, vegetable stock, mushrooms, salsa, ceviche, etcetera. The versatility and ability to bring out the earth tones in dishes is what draws me to ancho.”

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

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)

“The flavor you get from making your own spice blends is not only unique but it can spark new flavor profiles that are fresh and foreign. My favorite spice that I’m working with now is fermented mushroom powder. I make the spice blend with scraps and pieces from cleaned mushrooms. I add 2.75% salt by weight to the mushrooms and seal them either in a vacuum-sealed bag or fermentation jar. Allow the mushrooms to slowly ferment for three to four days, shaking every day, and then remove them. The aroma should be funky, fermented, and deep in flavor. Next, you dehydrate the fermented mushrooms until they are completely dried and then crush in a spice blender until smooth. I like to think of this blend as a natural MSG seasoning and it’s extremely flavorful and salty. I like to use it in a lot of different applications from soups, sauces, dips to marinates. Mushrooms are only an option; some other ingredients that make great fermented powders are tomatoes, toasted mirepoix, and garlic scapes.”

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)

“I believe you season food with salt and acid. Any other ingredient I view as a flavoring. Adding acid, be it citrus or vinegar, really wakes ingredients up but takes a calculated touch. In some instances a lot of acid is great, in others a few drops is all that is needed. For me, food without acid is nearly as sad as food without salt.”

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

Matt Kraiss

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery
Thunder Canyon Brewstillery team Matt Kraiss (left), Adam, and Bryan (right) (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Thunder Canyon Brewstillery team Matt Kraiss (left), Adam, and Bryan (right) (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“My knee jerk reaction to this question is chilis and peppers. From fresh, to dried, to powdered. They have so much diversity, from bitter to sweet to spicy to unbelievably hot. Especially being in the southwest, we have so many different styles incorporated in our food. I grew up having family in New Mexico, so a couple times a year we would go visit them and the fastest route to my uncle’s house is to cut through Hatch. My parents always had several bags of hatch chili powder in the freezer. Anyone who has been to New Mexico knows while there, you can get hot green chilis on any item at almost any restaurant.

My first memorable lip-sweating experience that I had was in New Mexico at a taco truck. It really resonated with me because I remember being in pain, like actual pain, but couldn’t stop going back in for more. Sweating and having a full body meltdown, then rubbing fruit on my lips and drinking soda and water trying to stop them from burning, and right when my body and face cooled off going back in for more until it was unbearable once again and I had to repeat the cool off process. A good chili or pepper to me is like a good romantic experience. It should make you excited, it should make you sweat, it should be a little sweet and a little hot and it should leave a lasting impression on you.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Matt Kraiss.

Roderick LeDesma

PY Steakhouse at Casino Del Sol Resort
PY Steakhouse chef de cuisine Roderick LeDesma (Credit: Jackie Tran)

PY Steakhouse chef de cuisine Roderick LeDesma (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“It should come as no surprise to people who know me that I’m going to say piment d’Espelette. It’s a pepper grown in the French commune of Espelette and typically comes dried and ground in a powder. It has a slight heat, a bit sweet and smokey. Really amazing.”

View our April 2017 Nine on the Line with Roderick LeDesma.

Doug Levy

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

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

“Ouch. Only one? To me, the point of seasoning is to bring out or push back notes in the food or wine you’re accompanying. If I had to pick one, I guess I’d pick celery seed, partly because I’m on a celery seed binge right now, and partly because it creates a baseline of broad flavor with a vegetal note that I love, but it’s subtle enough to layer other flavors over. Bright notes or spice can rest on top of a foundation provided by the celery seed. But next week, I’ll have changed my mind and I’ll have a different favorite.”

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)

“Being a pitmaster, I get to use a lot of different seasonings, but they never change. It’s the same spices in the rubs week after week. My favorite spice would be 18 mesh black pepper. It gives a good flavor on whatever meat or rub I put it in. I also like granulated garlic, it’s very versatile. I use it in every item I make from chili to mushrooms. I used to have one of them fancy cooking jobs where I got to use saffron. I think it’s a little overrated. It gives great color but you need to use a lot to get any flavor and those little sticks aren’t cheap.”

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

Coralie Satta

Ghini’s French Caffe
Owner and chef Coralie Satta of Ghini's French Caffe (Photo provided by Coralie Satta)

Owner and chef Coralie Satta of Ghini’s French Caffe (Photo provided by Coralie Satta)

“My favorite seasoning is thyme and garlic and lavender. All of which remind me of home land south of France and my amazing grandmother that gave me all the reasons to fall in love with the culinary arts.”

David Solorzano

Ume at Casino Del Sol Resort
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)

“Depending on the application I like Espelette and Aleppo Peppers or Fruit Vinegars and Honey. Certain peppers when dried take on a variety of notes from floral to citrus that deepens the flavor and aroma of whatever you are seasoning. Vinegars make notes pop that otherwise would remain dormant and round out dishes, and honey can give unexpected roundness especially when you use high quality honey that have notes themselves based on what the bees were harvesting in the particular area that the hive was placed. And of course you cannot forget first pressed fish sauce that can give dishes a rich and completely different dimension.”

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

Brian Smith

Maynards Market & Kitchen
Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Right now I’m enjoying playing around with different peppercorns. There are so many varieties and each is so different. Especially Thai long pepper and its sweet floral notes. Also Talamanca peppercorns from Ecuador as well as Sichuan peppercorns which are crazy aromatic and have a mouth-numbing effect which is fun.”

View our May 2017 Tools They Use with Brian Smith.

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.
  • gallia

    Is there really only one female chef in all of Tucson?

    • Jackie

      Hi Gallia,

      Chef Ghini is the only female chef that responded by deadline for this particular article. You’ll see additional female chefs’ responses in previous “We asked chefs” articles.

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