We asked chefs: what is your favorite ingredient to grill?

"We Asked Chefs" is a regular feature in which we ask local Tucson chefs a range of questions about chef life and food.

“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 is your favorite ingredient to grill?”


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)

“Oh man, freshly butchered sheep liver with its own grilled fat netted on top with grilled green chili on grilled Navajo flatbread. ?ikan!”

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

Dee Buizer

Senae Thai Bistro
Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I love to grill shrimp and octopus, both of which can be served deliciously with a coconut milk base, then tossed with lemongrass, chili, garlic and a couple of squeezes of lime, served beautifully on a bed of spring salad mix.”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.

Michael Elefante

Mama Louisa’s
Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa's (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa’s (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I’m not really a big griller. But barbecue is one of my favorite things for the summer. I’ve been blessed to have gotten my hands on a Traeger Proline 34 — changed the way I barbecue.

I have done many things on it from cookies to pizza, but 16-hour brisket is my absolute favorite. When you have that perfectly cooked, smoked brisket with the beautiful smoke rings, the rendered delicious fat cap, the burnt ends, it’s like a soul cleanser. It makes everything right in the world. Traeger brisket is life.”

View our November 2016 Tools They Use with Michael Elefante.

Ramon Gonzales

Fat Noodle Ramen House

Ramon Gonzales at Fat Noodle Ramen House (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Steak would be the easiest answer, but I take my family up to Madera Canyon for breakfast picnics and we grill a loaf of Time Market’s levain until it’s nice and toasted and eat it with fig butter. So good.”

Aidan Gould

Blue Sky Cafe at Sky Islands Public High School
Chef Aidan Gould searing duck breast at Blue Sky Cafe at Sky Islands Public High School (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Aidan Gould searing duck breast at Blue Sky Cafe at Sky Islands Public High School (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I think my all-time favorite is poblanos. The skin comes off and the flesh infuses with all the smoke from the grill. That being said, there are so many amazing vegetables that get even better when you grill them. Grilled eggplant makes a great addition to a charcuterie board. Baste butternut squash with some agave nectar and butter while grilling it and you have delicious smoky and sweet squash.”

View our April 2019 Nine on the Line with Aidan Gould.

Eduardo Jara

Tavolino Ristorante Italiano 
Executive chef Eduardo Jara at Tavolino Ristorante Italiano (Photo courtesy of Tavolino Ristorante Italiano)

Executive chef Eduardo Jara at Tavolino Ristorante Italiano (Photo courtesy of Tavolino Ristorante Italiano)

“My favorite ingredient to cook is a good beef rib, seasoned with sea salt and fresh herbs.”

Doug Levy

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

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

“Romaine lettuce. We cut it into wedges and make grilled salads once in a while, or right now (May), we’re serving roasted baby root vegetables and celtuce with a grilled romaine cream sauce. Yum.”

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)

“I grill and barbecue daily. At home, I like to grill items I don’t get to cook at work.

I really enjoy grilling leeks. I cut them in half and rinse thoroughly to get all the sand out. I brush with butter and fresh garlic and grill ’til soft. Much better than regular onions.

I also enjoy grilling London broil. I marinate it in a fajita sauce and grill to medium doneness and let it rest about 10 minutes. I then slice thin, add some sautéed onions and peppers, and enjoy as steak fajitas.”

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

John Martinez

Tito & Pep
Tito & Pep owner-chef John Martinez (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tito & Pep owner-chef John Martinez (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Vegetables. Especially this time of year. With the heat of summer, eating lighter is so appealing, so as I am getting the fire going, I like to throw some heartier things like whole onions, sweet peppers or eggplant in the flames as the wood burns down to coals so they can char and get tender and sweet.

Then when the coals are ready to go, some more delicate things like asparagus, pole beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes or snap peas and char some lemons at the same time to squeeze over them when they come off the grill.

A pile of smoked kissed vegetables with a nice salad and a small amount of grilled protein is my ideal summer evening meal.”

View our November 2018 article on Tito & Pep.

Jim Murphy

Kingfisher
Kingfisher's Jim "Murph" Murphy

Kingfisher’s Jim “Murph” Murphy

“I love to grill vegetables, all kinds, either for serving hot or chilling for dipping later. I must say, my favorites are sweet potatoes. Whether it is a Purple Stokes from North Carolina, a Beauregard from Louisiana, or an orange-skinned Jewel from California, they are all sweet potatoes.

Try to choose spuds that are not too big around the middle (10-12 inch circumference) to promote even grilling, sprinkle with olive oil, rub them with some salt, and put them on a low grill, roll them around so as not to burn. I like to start them early and then move them up to a top rack to finish baking while the grill gets turned up for whatever is to be grilled, 20 – 25 minutes total on the heat. Slice them, fan them, garnish with some charred rosemary, drizzle warm extra-virgin olive oil, it will accompany anything.”

View our January 2015 Nine on the Line with Jim Murphy.

Kyle Nottingham

Commoner & Co. • Prep & Pastry
Commoner & Co. and Prep & Pastry partner-chef Kyle Nottingham at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Commoner & Co. and Prep & Pastry partner-chef Kyle Nottingham at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“It is always hard to just nail it down to one item, but I have to say, one of my favorite ingredients to grill are peaches. Especially this time of year when the first peaches are starting to come to peak ripeness and mix that with perfect grilling weather. It’s a match made in culinary heaven.

My favorite way to grill them is over an open fire, using a plancha or chapa grill and searing them until the flesh is heavily charred and blackened on one side. Then simply drizzle them with some honey and some olive oil. Goat cheese and garden greens with these peaches make the perfect summer dish, which always finds itself on my table multiple times throughout the season.”

View our March 2017 Nine on the Line with Kyle Nottingham.

Travis Peters

The Parish

(Photo courtesy of the Parish)

“Honestly, my family and I grill constantly, like several nights a week. I have a garage refrigerator that I dry age, marinate, and cure meats in. A few years ago, I bought a great little backyard rig that has propane, charcoal, and smoker units. The propane unit makes it quick and easy to fire up and cook meals nightly. The charcoal and smoker units are used for slow-moving weekend cookouts with friends and family.

In my humble opinion, grilling in the backyard with your loved ones is absolutely the greatest way to cook and eat. Crank up the tunes, open a beer, turn on the sprinklers for the kids, and fire up the grill. Pure heaven.

Some grilled favorites at the Peters’ household are red-hot cinnamon chicken thighs, garlic mint jicama, smoked root beer ribs finished on the grill, chili-spiked pineapple spicy, agave peaches, and pork chops, and finally any marinated meats from El Herradero Supermarket for backyard tacos with lots of micheladas.”

John “J.P.” Pratt

Tohono Chul Garden Bistro
Executive John "JP" Pratt at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive John “JP” Pratt at Tohono Chul Garden Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Close your eyes and point. I’ll grill anything. I love grilling and summer is the time to do it.

Summer is coming.

I do really enjoy grilling burgers and bratwurst, and ribs. It’s gotta be baby-back pork ribs, though.”

View our October 2018 Nine on the Line with John “JP” Pratt.

Coralie Satta

Ghini’s French Caffe
Coralie Satta of Ghini's French Caffe and La Baguette Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Coralie Satta of Ghini’s French Caffe and La Baguette Bakery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“My favorite items on the grill are cuttlefish and octopus. I really don’t enjoy the act of grilling personally; however, I will gratefully enjoy the fruits of someone else’s hard work.”

View our March 2018 video with Coralie Satta, Women’s History Month Episode 2.

Dominique Stoller

HUB Ice Cream Factory • Playground Bar & Lounge
Dominique Stoller, executive pastry chef and general manager at HUB Ice Cream Factory, events and catering chef at Playground Bar & Lounge (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dominique Stoller, executive pastry chef and general manager at HUB Ice Cream Factory, events and catering chef at Playground Bar & Lounge (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Skirt steak and shrimp.”

View our August 2017 Tools They Use with Dominique Stoller.

Fulvia Steffenone

Caffe Milano
Chef Fulvia Steffenone "La Fufi" at Caffe Milano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Fulvia Steffenone “La Fufi” at Caffe Milano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I have not the slightest doubt: fish, fish, fish! One of the most amazing and genuine Italian traditions is to grill the freshest fish and then season it a little: a few slices of lemon, a handful of parsley (or other herbs), a thread of wonderful Italian extra-virgin olive oil. In this way, the fish — which must not be overcooked, but still have lightly rosy edges — develops the best of itself and offers a unique experience.”

View our November 2018 Nine on the Line: Chef “La Fufi” Fulvia Steffenone from Caffe Milano.

Marcus van Winden

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge
The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge executive chef and co-owner Marcus van Winden (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“There a lot of ingredients that I think are nice to grill, however, I am not exactly sure why, but I love grilled asparagus and beefsteak tomato. One of the reasons, I believe it complements well with the flavor. And it [only] needs some pepper and salt for seasoning.”

View our July 2017 Nine on the Line with Marcus van Winden.

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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