Me: You’ve been keeping very busy. You recently won Tucson Knife Fight for the second time since 2018, a Shamrock cooking competition, and are now serving as the Executive Sous Chef at Casino del Sol. Are you sure you don’t travel with a mouse named Ratatouille?
Ledesma: [sheepish grin]
This is a nod to the culinary epiphany that Chef Roderick Ledesma had while watching the Disney/Pixar film “Ratatouille.” At the time, just before heading into his senior year at the University of Arizona as a psychology student, he had an epiphany, and after switching to culinary school and working at In-N-Out Burger for a few years, he earned a spot at Primo at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa.
Me: I’ve always found that food has a way of transporting you back in time. What’s your favorite memory associated with food?
Ledesma: Baking chocolate chip cookies with Mom. I’d sit in the kitchen with her and the scent of warm, freshly baked cookies would fill the air.
Me: What are some of your favorite Tucson restaurants?
Ledesma: This is a very hard question.
*Elliott’s was on his list when he was asked in 2017. They’ve definitely stood the test of time.
Me: How do you unwind?
Ledesma: Having a drink, whiskey, or beer.
Me: What are some of your favorite Tucson Breweries?
Ledesma: I love the hazy IPAs at Pueblo Vida and Barrio Brewing*.
* We laughed because he said he had a “ton of favorite breweries” and then under pressure could only name these two.
The cocktails were a preview of what’s to come this weekend at the Downtown Clifton Hotel First Annual Halloween Bar Bazaar. The cocktail pictured is a tequila, pink peppercorn and raspberry syrup, lime, orange curaçao, and rhubarb bitter.
I then asked him if a hotdog was a sandwich and replied with an immediate “Yes.” Chef told me I wasn’t asking it correctly and that the question used to be “Is a burger a sandwich?” So, here we are, 9 p.m. on a Monday discussing the merits of sandwiches versus burritos versus tacos and everything in between — literally.
Me: Pancakes or waffles?
Ledesma: Pancakes because I’m lazy.
Me: Team Waffle House or IHOP?
Ledesma: Waffle House.
Me: Correct answer. What ingredients are always in your fridge?
Ledesma: Usually, people think that chefs can open the fridge and find anything they need, but it’s usually just beer and condiments*. (Ranch dressing will always be in the fridge because his wife, Gabby, could drink it by the gallon).
*If you need to make a killer sandwich, Chef Roderick has you covered with his Kewpie mayonnaise, Duke’s Mayonnaise, and Whataburger Ketchup. He also has a spice cabinet to rule them all.
Me: Is there a cooking appliance you can’t live without?
Ledesma: It would have to be an air fryer or Insta Pot. I also can’t live without my Don Nguyen knife but he doesn’t consider it an appliance.
Me: Not to get all marriage counselor on you, but how do you keep the passion going with your relationship with food?
Ledesma: I still find everything interesting. No matter how much you think you know, you don’t know everything. Even if you’ve been cooking for years, you can always learn something new. There’s always something new. It’s fun.
That’s my favorite part of going out to eat — seeing how other chefs are doing things. Oh, and also not cooking.
Though Chef Ledesma helps oversee the entire casino, you can catch him at PY Steakhouse. We recommend the five-course or eight-course tasting menu (with wine pairings) to really unleash his creativity.
Casino Del Sol, PY Steakhouse, and the other concepts at the casino are located at 5655 W. Valencia Rd. For more information, visit casinodelsol.com. To keep up with Chef Roderick Ledesma, follow him on Instagram.
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Addie Ibarra, native Tucsonan, is a fierce lover of adventure, travels, and food. Addie has her Masters in Legal Studies and hopes to one day apply that towards helping people (and animals) around the globe, while traveling and tasting along...