We caught up with Austin chef (and native Tucsonan) Kevin Fink in anticipation of his "Ignite Agave" appearance

By Jackie Tran
April 23, 2019

Austin's Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye has received more press than you can shake a stick at. But he got his start in Tucson. Fink will return to Tucson as a guest chef for Ignite Agave at the Agave Heritage Festival 2019.

Austin chef Kevin Fink has grown into one of the biggest names in the culinary industry; and he's from Tucson.

The former chef and director of operations at Zona 78 staged at Noma and worked front of house at French Laundry before opening his Austin restaurant Emmer & Rye in 2015.

Soon after, Food & Wine magazine named Fink one of the country’s best new chefs. Next, Bon Appétit Magazine nominated Emmer & Rye one of America’s Best New Restaurants in 2016.

In 2018, Food Republic featured Fink in an interview titled Austin Chef Kevin Fink Knows Way More About Wheat Than YouHe also earned a James Beard award nomination that year, but didn't make the finalist cut.

However, Fink made the finalist list this year.

Although Kevin Fink has been showered with additional praise and accolades, he's showing no signs of slowing down. The family of restaurants expanded with cafe Henbit. He also opened Israeli restaurant TLV in downtown Austin with a live-fire restaurant called Hestia on the way.


If you missed out on Fink's cooking while he was in Tucson, don't worry. He's coming back; for a night.

At Ignite Agave on Friday, April 26, Fink will be part of a team of celebrity chefs cooking up light bites for VIP ticket holders.

In anticipation of Fink's visit, we interviewed him by phone.

What do you have in store for Ignite?

A gondolini pasta white Sonora wheat filled with whole cow's milk ricotta in a lactic brine with tomatoes, seasonal ingredients, wild-foraged herbs, and house-made vinegar.

[Also,] we're going to use some of Don's bread. Grilled nopales marinated in avocado and hoja santa on sourdough.

What was it like growing in a culinary family?

Cooking with Albert Hall was eye-opening at a young age. Working with Tom and Rick showed me incredible passion for restaurants. Tucson has so many producers and farmers.

How has Tucson and Sonoran flavors influenced what you're doing now?

I always wanted to stay by the desert. There's a flavor in the struggle. Like great wine grapes. Some of the most unique ingredients come about.

It has some similar growing conditions [as Austin]. A way of eating that I crave. Feeding people in a climate that is warm is totally different than doing so for the cold, and we crave different things for our body.

Tucson has such a soul to it and it forces you to think of your how and why and that's something that I never really left.

What's going to be the first thing you eat when you arrive in Tucson?

I almost always stop by Taqueria Pico de Gallo on the way from the airport and get fish tacos on corn tortillas. Tacos Apson, Babylon Market... I always find my way to Aqui con el Nene.

Ignite Agave is a presentation about food, agriculture, beverages, and culture, featuring live music, celebrity chefs, botanists, and business owners. Each will highlight the importance of the agave plant’s impact on our region.

This event takes place at the Fox Theatre downtown from 7 – 10 p.m.

General admission tickets are $5 per person, but a VIP ticket is also available at $45 each. VIP ticket holders enjoy exclusive access to balcony seating, specialty cocktails, and light bites.

The Fox Theatre is located downtown at 17 W. Congress St. For more information, visit agaveheritagefestival.com.

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Article By

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...

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