“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: “what one dish best represents your identity?”
“My Hoi Shell Rad Gang, a creative presentation of pan-seared scallops elegantly placed atop tempura eggplant, accented with intensely flavored Thai Basil, served with cauliflower and asparagus to make it approachable, and bathed in my refined green curry sauce to emphasize its authentic Bangkok origin.”
View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.
“I would have to say jambalaya—the blend of spice, meats, seafoods, rice, vegetables, and cultures are a lot like the places I was raised in and the people I was raised by.
A beautiful mix of wonderful ingredients turned into a dish meant to be shared with the community is what I’m all about. Its just a bonus there is sausage in it.”
View our October 2018 Nine on the Line with Ivor Cryderman.
“Sorry, but there isn’t one.
The whole point of Feast is that the menu changes constantly, and that’s because the part of the menu that best represents my identity is that we’re always trying something new.
We’re closing in on the mark of having had 250 different menus since we’ve opened; how could I pick one dish from all those and say that it represents me?
The day one dish represents my identity is the day I should close up shop.”
View our September 2017 Nine on the Line with Doug Levy.
“The dish that best represents our identity? Hmmm. So many choices, I guess it would be our sampler plate. Good portions of brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, smoked chicken on the bone along with two sides.
We are also known for our loaded fries and tots and our house-made pickles. Our loaded fries and tots start out with my own recipe for a smoked Gouda cheese sauce then we top it with pork or brisket, a little barbecue sauce, and sour cream and finish with green onions and jalapeños.
I don’t know, maybe my brisket chili represents us?”
View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.
“Over the past four-to-five years, I think I’ve put out over a thousand unique dishes that range all over from dinner specials, to coursed out tasting menus, to food truck fare, to breakfast items, but the one dish I can honestly look back on and say that best represents my identity would be the Hamachi Crudo I did for the Art of Plating competition.
This was the dish that I saw myself the most in and what made it truly special to me was how much passion, time, and effort it took to gather the ingredients to compose it.
Scanning the riverbeds for the perfect, flat river rock to plate my dish on, hiking thousands of feet above sea level to forage mushrooms that only grow in certain areas/certain times of the year, seeking sweet wild apples that only grow on one tree in the middle of the forest, and working with local farms to highlight these wild ingredients to complement them with peak season vegetables.
All of this is so incredibly inspiring to me, and in the moment of creating this dish, I felt like the chef I know I can be and was proud of everything I did to put those ingredients on that plate.
There’s something special about plating a dish like that and feeling that moment of pure excitement, nerves, and seeing it all come together.
Since I’m such a hard critic on myself especially plating and food, it’s rare that I actually feel proud of what I’ve accomplished. But it’s also what keeps me pushing to be better every single day.
Moments like when I plated that dish that I worked so hard to make, gather, and execute; I chase that feeling every day.”
View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.
“Something saucy with attitude wrapped in a big hug.”
View our July 2018 article Celebrate 26 Years of Ghini’s French Caffe with these 10 French classics (SLIDESHOW).
“I was born in a region of Italy – Piedmont – which is surrounded by mountains: this has greatly influenced the oenological and gastronomic traditions of this land, creating a love for simple and tasty food made with a few ingredients, perfectly balanced and well-recognizable.
Naturally, I am bound to this land and to these traditions; even though I am a teacher of international cuisine, when I can cook a Piedmontese dish, I feel particularly at ease.
Polenta in a thousand different ways, the bagna caôda, the risotto alla novarese, the tajarin with the white truffle, the Brasato al Barolo are masterpieces that I like to offer to friends and customers of my restaurant; generally, those who try them are astonished by the fact that these simple flavors can create such elegant mixes.
Among all, there is a dish to which I am more bounded to than others: the Piedmontese agnolotti. The agnolotti [is] similar to, and in some cases, confused with ravioli, which are typical of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.
Piedmontese agnolotti [is] stuffed, in the classical form, with three different meats complemented by white cabbage leaves. They are usually served with a simple sauce — the roast sauce — but they are also excellent with melted butter, flavored with a few sage leaves.
In the countryside around Asti and Alessandria, where agnolotti are thought to be born, they are served without any seasoning; just boiled in salted water and placed on a rough canvas. An unforgettable experience.
This year in my restaurant, as a Christmas special, I served a particular type of agnolotti, very small and elaborate, called “del plin.” The plin, in Piedmontese dialect, means the pinch, because during the preparation, after placing the filling on dough, you “pinch” the pasta creating a kind of bundle.
This year, for my plin, I chose a duck stuffing and I served them in the classic way, with the roast sauce. At the end of the dinner, several guests were incredulous and moved; and I was too.”
View our November 2018 Nine on the Line: Chef “La Fufi” Fulvia Steffenone from Caffe Milano.
“That’s two-fold for me. I would say our Duck a’la Kumquat Tacos, because for me, as a chef, they are inspirational. I took my very formal French training and background and was able to play with it, modernize it, and make a dish I really love.
I would also say our Kibbeling, which is a classic Dutch version of fish and chips. It is traditional, simple and delicious. Plus, it’s my six-year-old’s favorite dish on the menu.”
View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Marcus van Winden.
“The one dish that represents me the most would be the Marinara pizza with mozzarella. A combination of the first two pizzas invented in Naples, Italy.
It’s my favorite pizza to eat, and also to make for our guests at Fiamme Pizza. Also, it represents the simplicity of a classic Neapolitan pizza.
Any pizzeria in Naples has these two pizzas, Margherita and Marinara, the first two items on the menu. The combination of spices balanced with fresh mozzarella is simplicity at its finest and most definitely represents my identity as a pizzaiolo.”
View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Scott Volpe.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran’s Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...