Meet the culinary superstars ready to dazzle at Art of Plating 2020

Exquisite plates and bites to come.

The Tucson Foodie team is thrilled about our up-and-coming annual event, The Art of Plating 2020. The evening promises fast-paced competition packed with fun and flavor (and beautifully presented food).

The competitors, many of the best chefs on Tucson’s burgeoning culinary scene, have come together to stretch themselves, being the creative artists that they are. They will compete to see who comes out at the top in food presentation that night. Although the chefs will appear intense and focused, we’re expecting lots of laughs and entertainment the whole night through.

Supporting an important cause

The event will donate a portion of the proceeds to a local organization imperative to Tucson’s well being—the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

The local organization supports our community in many ways beyond the important mission of feeding the hungry; the Community Food Bank supports local farmers, schools, and food-centric careers. One of their uplifting programs, Caridad Community Kitchen, trains people for culinary careers as cooks and servers. Many wonderful staff members, at restaurants our chefs represent, have completed the comprehensive Caridad Community Kitchen training program.

The Art of Plating chefs are supporting this worthy cause by donating their time and food (and blood, sweat and tears). Without further ado, we give you The Art of Plating 2020 culinary superstars.

The Art of Plating 2020 chefs

Erika Bostick-Esham, Fonda La Hermanita

Erika recently opened the Coronet’s delightful sister restaurant Fonda La Hermanita. One could sing epic odes to her chicken soup. Erika has been in Tucson’s culinary business for years, but did you know that she danced Mexican Folklorico and Spanish flamenco with Leticia Durazo Studio from age 3 to 14, then moved on to study modern dance at Rincon High School from ages 14 to 18? Now you do. Once an artist, always an artist.

Executive chef Erika Bostick at The Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Erika Bostick at The Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Mahmoud “Moody” Elbarasi, The Coronet

Moody has worked just about every position in the kitchen—from dishwasher all the way to executive chef. And again we find out that this culinary artist had a previous artistic life; he spent much of his youth as a musician traveling across the country.

Executive chef Moody Elbarasi and chef de cuisine Chris McClain at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Mahmoud “Moody” Elbarasi and chef de cuisine Chris McClain at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Wendy Gauthier, Chef Chic

Wendy is the reigning Iron Chef Tucson 2019, woot woot! She also recently opened the doors of brick-and-mortar restaurant Chef Chic on Tucson’s east side. It’s no wonder that a friend of Wendy’s calls her “The Ruiner,” because once she tries something Wendy cooks for her, she feels all other preparations of the dish are ruined in comparison.

Chef Wendy Gauthier from Chef Chic at Vida (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Wendy Gauthier from Chef Chic at Vida (Credit: Jackie Tran)

 

Roderick LeDesma, PY Steakhouse at Casino Del Sol

Roderick grew up cooking with his mom and watching PBS cooking icons like Julia Child. The first thing he remembers cooking baking himself was a batch of chocolate chip cookies. He decided to pursue a culinary career after watching Disney’s Pixar film Ratatouille.

PY Steakhouse chef de cuisine Roderick LeDesma (Credit: Jackie Tran)

PY Steakhouse chef de cuisine Roderick LeDesma (Credit: Jackie Tran)

John Martinez, Tito & Pep

John loves eating a “family meal” with his restaurant staff. He truly believes in the strong connections we make through food and its importance in creating stronger bonds with his team. This third-generation Tucsonan is no stranger to competition—he turned 13 on the set of Family Feud.

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

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

Maria Mazon, BOCA Tacos Y Tequila

While slaying in Tucson with her delicious and inventive tacos (among other delightful eats), Maria steers clear from shellfish, due to an allergy, hates (with a burning passion) mayonnaise, and she eats her fries with mustard.

If she had to pick a final dessert to enjoy, while still breathing on planet Earth, it would be a raspado. I mean, the mouth wants what it wants.

Chef Maria Mazon from BOCA Tacos y Tequila at Vida (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Maria Mazon from BOCA Tacos y Tequila at Vida (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Kyle Nottingham, Ares Collective: Commoner & Co. • Prep & Pastry • August Rhodes

After expanding his culinary expertise, bringing plate after plate of inventive deliciousness (if you’ve eaten what he’s prepared, you’ll know) to all his guests, it turns out that all Kyle wants to feed his face with is a huge bowl of ramen and a Mexican doughnut.

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)

Gina Skelton, First We Eat Catering & Confections

Raspberry muffins are the first thing Gina remembers making with her Mom. The berries were picked straight off of the bushes in their garden. She also remembers a failed attempt at boiling eggs when she was nine. I guess, in future attempts, she learned to boil eggs with water. 😉 She can’t wait to have her artistic dreams of bringing decadent, delicious desserts to Tucson realized.

Executive pastry chef Gina Skelton from Casino Del Sol at Vida (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive pastry chef Gina Skelton from Casino Del Sol at Vida (Credit: Jackie Tran)

David Solorzano, Penca Restaurante

The first dish David recalls making was pickled pig trotters with his grandmother. Originally a Fine Arts major, he found his culinary passion ignited while working at his uncle’s local restaurant. He working in kitchens all over the United States and in Guadalajara, improving and refining his skills. Ask him about his love for doughnuts. It knows no bounds.

Penca executive chef David Solorzano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Penca executive chef David Solorzano (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dominique Stoller, Doma’s Delights

Dominique crushed the Tucson food scene in 2019, winning the final battle at culinary competition, Knife Fight. Known for her delicious sweet treats and catering (along with an ever-present smile), Dominique is a hardcore midnight snacker—usually vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate sauce, but whatever ice cream she has in the freezer will do.

Executive pastry chef and general manager Dominique Stoller from HUB Ice Cream Factory (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Doma’s Delights chef Dominique Stoller (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Matt Thompson, Nook

Matt loves life. When he isn’t cooking, he’s listening to a vinyl from his collection or spending time with his wife, Nikki, and their three-year-old son, adorable Henry.

Matt and Nikki Thompson at Nook

Matt and Nikki Thompson at Nook (Credit: Jackie Tran)

To find out more about the 2020 event, check out this article. If you want a recap of the first event, view the video footage, competing plates, and photobooth fun here.

Jenn, who grew up with too many brothers, talks with her mouth full during the movie.

X