Nine on the Line: Emily Dillport from the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

Nine on the Line features Tucson chefs answering nine burning questions.

Florida native Emily Dillport began her career with the Ritz-Carlton 12 years ago. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for their properties at Orlando, Palm Beach, Aruba, St. Thomas and New Orleans.

In 2016, Dillport took on the role of executive sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, Southern Arizona’s only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel. On April 9, 2019, she became executive chef. Now, she leads the teams behind CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar, Ignite, Cayton’s Burger Bistro, Turquesa Latin Grill, TO|GO, in-room dining, and resort banquets.

“I would like to continue introducing our guests to what can be foraged locally , and to different ways to enjoy these delicacies,” Dillport said in a press release. “From local pistachios to Cholla buds, I think Arizona has so much to offer that many people aren’t aware of… and there is a magic about this area that is unexplainable.”

1. What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective of food?

The first time I had a steak cooked correctly. I was 18 years old and the chef of a restaurant I worked at as a busser cooked me a steak after working hard during a very busy night. I’ll never forget the plating, the perfectly cooked filet – the sauce was very complementary. It was simply perfect.

I had never experienced such refined food in my life at that point. It was simple but altering for me. I realized that I wanted to make food taste and look that good and I wanted to learn everything I could to get better each and every day.

That started six months of asking to help in the kitchen. Six months later, I made it to the dish room, and six months after that, into the kitchen.

2. What are you eating these days?

It’s exciting to see spring back and all of the food that is coming along with it. I’ve enjoyed a lot of citrus the last few weeks. Our beautiful citrus orchard produced an amazing harvest that we have been eating and using in every way imaginable; from juice, to just the fruit, to marmalade, to vinaigrettes, to marinades. And the list goes on.

3. What was the first dish you remember cooking?

Scrambled eggs. A lost art if you ask me. There is nothing better than when your eggs are perfect.

4. What concept, ingredient, or food trend are you experimenting with these days?

We are playing around a lot with house fermentation and aging sauces. It’s a very interesting science in the culinary world that really enhances flavors, but introduces you to what something is and what it can become.

5. Who would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?

I’d like to cook with Dominique Crenn, Ina Garten and my grandmother. I’d eat dinner with my grandmother and wife.

6. What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?

Hands down the southern Florida coast. There is nothing better than eating fresh Florida grouper beachside. I could do it everyday.

7. Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?

It’s so funny, I get this question often. I think people are so surprised to hear a chef’s guilty pleasure; it’s never what they expect. I’m addicted to Ruffles potato chips and Reese’s peanut butter cups, eaten at the same time.

8. Which three Tucson restaurants do you frequent the most, aside from your own?

Agustin Kitchen, Habanero’s Restaurante in Tubac, and DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails.

9. With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?

Biscuits and bacon gravy (grandmother’s recipe), som tum and Thai sticky rice, rock shrimp in the shell with drawn butter (when they are at peak season), Hogtooth snapper sashimi and a warm pan of brownies with a pint of vanilla ice cream, finished with espresso.

Keep up with chef Emily Dillport on Instagram. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is located at 15000 N. Secret Springs Dr., Marana, AZ 85658. For more information, visit ritzcarlton.com.

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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