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Last modified on October 19th, 2018 at 11:54 am
“We Asked Chefs” is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food. Read their responses to the latest: “who is your favorite figure in the food world?”
“My favorite figure is a man that had an immediate impact on my culinary career and life the day I met him. His name is Odell Baskerville.
On my first day of culinary school, I remember him standing up in front of the class to tell us about his experience and a little about himself, and from that point, he had my full attention.
He talked about how he changed careers after many years in a whole different industry, just to start all over. He had to start from the bottom, but his drive wouldn’t ever let that discourage him. Chef didn’t seem like the type of man that would have been comfortable doing it any other way.
Chef was able to accomplish so much in such a short time and I truly believe it was more for his integrity and work ethic than anything else. The man composed himself in such a way you couldn’t help but see your own shortcomings, and say, ‘I need to be more like, or someday I’m going to be like Chef Odell.’ I said that to myself many times. I still do.
I spent two-and-a-half years learning from him and listening to his stories and lectures and I have to say I am better for it. I think we all are.
I am truly blessed to have known him and learn from him. Every time I find myself struggling, I think of him and ask myself what chef Odell would tell me, how would he handle it.
A couple weeks before he left us, I went back to the Art Institute to tell him about my new job as chef de cuisine, at Elvira’s Tucson. It had been a few months since I last saw him and I almost didn’t recognize him.
He was going through a battle for his life and looked nothing like I remembered, but just like every other conversation we had, he knew exactly what to say. He knew exactly how to change my perspective on things I found difficult to understand.
He was days from passing but he was still at school teaching. He never let me give up on myself and [taught me] to always keep pushing — to take your defeats with integrity [and] grace and learn from them.
Chef Odell Baskerville will forever be in my heart and I’ll always strive to be more like him — the father, husband, teacher, and most importantly, the man.”
“The late Anthony Bourdain was one of the best culinary figures to ever do it. He showed us all a side of this world that many people don’t get to see, whether that be from his stories in the kitchen or his travels around the world. Rest easy, chef.”
View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.
“I would have to say it’s the person that brought me into this world and the culinary world — my father. He has been a chef for a very long time.
Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to grow up to be like him — a chef. Being by his side when I was little — watching his love of food and giving people a wonderful dining experience and how happy that made him — made me want to do the same.”
Read more about the Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House Grand Opening.
“This is a tough one. There are so many interesting and influential people in the ever-expanding world of food. But I would have to say, David Chang.
He is such an intriguing chef-restaurateur. The span of his influence is truly impressive. His restaurants are amazing. His food shows are entertaining. His podcast is informative. I think I have watched his season of Mind of a Chef at least a dozen times.”
View our February 2017 Nine on the Line with Tyler Fenton.
“I miss Jean-Louis Palladin. As much as I like pretty, delicate food, and as much as I like to look at all the delicate, arranged plates that are in vogue right now, I admire his elevation from rustic country cooking to fine dining.
He died of cancer the year Feast opened, but I think of him every time we offer a simple dish, well-prepared. He was able to look to the past to be ahead of his time.”
View our September 2017 Nine on the Line with Doug Levy.
“My favorite figure in the culinary world right now is David Chang. He is a great chef and can cook so many different cultural cuisines.
He’s very personable and I can relate well to what he’s saying or teaching. His shows are very informative and keep you interested. I’d love to eat at one of his restaurants and to meet and talk with him. Maybe down a couple of beers.”
View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.
“My favorite figures in the food world would probably be a combination of Rene Redzepi and Dan Barber. What especially intrigues me about these two powerhouse chefs is the way they orchestrate a menu by truly reflecting seasonality and locality.
Rene’s food revolves around wild ingredients foraged natively in his surrounding landscapes. Summer is full of bright vegetables, flowers, honey, fruits, and herbs. Fall consists of entering the forest where mushrooms are plentiful, game animals are introduced, and fish from the lakes make their way onto his offerings. Same with winter and spring where he uses the ingredients that grow and are sustainable from that time and place.
Barber is also a pioneer in using local and seasonal ingredients but works heavily with his farmers developing agriculture that supports his restaurants and food philosophy.
I recently had the opportunity to dine at Blue Hill and was blown away by his simplistic but incredibly impactful plates. Breeding produce and ingredients for flavor is so beyond the forefront of what chefs are doing now and it’s inspiring to continue to watch what he does for the future of our craft.”
View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.
“My biggest influence in the food world would have to be Michael Montesano. He is another Tucson local chef, my mentor, and one of my best friends. He taught me how to cook and be a chef, as well as how to push the envelope and try new and different things.
“I’d have to say Georges Auguste Escoffier and Marie-Antoine Carême are the founding fathers of haute French cuisine. Escoffier codified the five mother sauces, simplified so many elaborate and ornate 17th century recipes, and we would not be where we are today without many of their pioneering culinary efforts and ideas. They were referred to as kings of chefs and chefs of kings — I’d let them serve me anything anytime.”
But to pick one figure, I believe it would be Patrick O’Connell, chef-owner of Inn at Little Washington. I like his philosophy & his view of how or what a restaurant should be.”
View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Marcus van Winden.