(Photo courtesy of Isaac Stockton/ Off Kilter Productions)

At Home With Chef David Solorzano

November 22, 2023
By Addie Ibarra
By Addie Ibarra

We caught up with Chef David Solorzano at his beautiful midtown home and left with serious tiki bar envy. Not only is Solorzano creating memorable dining experiences at Agustin Kitchen (he is their executive chef, after all), but his hosting skills are tiki bar none.

Here’s my interview with David Solorzano:

Me: Tell me about yourself. According to your Instagram, you love dogs, motorcycles, and food. What other things do you like?

Solorzano: I like woodworking a lot. I made a couple of the tables outside. I’m starting my own lifestyle brand that’s more motorcycle-focused. That’s hopefully gonna come to fruition in the next month or two. I’ve always been interested in vintage and retro culture. I have a love for Tiki as well.

Me: I read that you grew up in Mexico. I didn’t grow up there, but I spent a lot of summers in Hermosillo. Tell me more.

Solorzano: Well, my family’s from Guadalajara. My mom’s side is from Guadalajara and my dad’s side is from Sonora. So, we visited Hermosillo a lot, and also San Carlos and Kino Bay when I was younger. I didn’t have that much of a connection with Central Mexico until my friend Carlos and I went to Guadalajara when I was at the Casino [del Sol]. That’s when I kind of shifted my focus from just doing whatever anybody else wanted me to do to actually making Mexican food and discovering what I really wanted to do.

a person sitting at a table eating food
(Photo courtesy of Isaac Stockton/ Off Kilter Productions)

Me: What would you say to people who are apprehensive about traveling to Mexico?

Solorzano: To just forget everything that anybody has told them what Mexico is in the States, including Tucson. Mexico is a melting pot. When you go to Mexico, there’s German engineering, there’s influences and cuisine from France to Russia. The style and food have a huge French influence that a lot of people don’t really give it credit for. Especially since what is portrayed is just like this dusty road with an adobe house in the middle of nowhere and Mexico is not that at all. So, what I would say to people is just forget everything anybody’s ever told you about Mexico and just go.

Me: I’ve always found that food has a way of transporting you back in time. What’s your favorite memory associated with food?

Solorzano: Ah, I feel like there’s a few of them. I feel like the first time I knew what food could do was when I had Chicken a la Oscar (I think it’s just chicken with Hollandaise sauce) that my uncle made at his restaurant. That was the first time that food made me feel a certain way that it never had made me feel before.

My earliest childhood food memory is pickled pig’s feet, which I never really appreciated until I was an adult, that my grandmother used to make. And my mom’s lengua will always spark something. You don’t really think of anything special until you actually start experiencing other things. You don’t realize how special childhood things are until they’re gone.

david solorzano
(Photo courtesy of Isaac Stockton/ Off Kilter Productions)

Me: What are some of your favorite Tucson restaurants?

Solorzano: My favorites are Birrieria Guadalajara on 22nd. I haven’t gotten a chance to go there lately, but Tito & Pep is always good and Matt’s a great guy as well.

As far as my favorite chefs in Tucson, Roderick [Ledesma] is definitely my favorite chef in Tucson. Ryan [Clark] is also a really amazing chef. I feel like nobody can really try his food a lot because that’s not his actual role anymore, but when he does cook, it’s just really, really fun. 

Me: What ingredients are always in your fridge?

Solorzano: I love milk. Parmesan cheese like grana padano. And now, I either always have Brussels sprouts or asparagus because Ramsay (his girlfriend) likes those things.

Me: Tell me about owning chickens. Mostly because I want chickens.

Solorzano: It’s awesome. They’re incredibly easy. They’re funny — they act funny and they’re funny to watch. It’s super easy. They’re super easy to maintain and have. Their names are Lana, Alice, and Ramona.

david solorzano
(Photo courtesy of Isaac Stockton/ Off Kilter Productions)

Me: Is there a food that you absolutely hate?

Solorzano: Blue cheese and cumin.

Me: What’s a cooking appliance you can’t live without?

Solorzano: My Zojirushi rice cooker is amazing. I actually have rice right now. I always have rice

Me: How do you unwind after coming home from work or on weekends?

Solorzano: Motorcycle ride or watching “The Price is Right.” “The Price is Right” has its own channel with the Barker era so it’s usually always playing. Even when I leave, that’s what the dogs listen to all day.

Me: So, as you know Tucson Foodie has a huge focus on building community. With you being in the kitchen, it’s less likely that you’re connecting with your patrons. What are other ways that you remain involved in the community and or help bring it together?

Solorzano: Recently, I started doing the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride again so that’s gonna be done every year now. That’s a motorcycle ride that happens every year through Movember to raise funds for men’s mental health and prostate awareness. I’m very involved with that because it’s something that’s very important and not a lot of people talk about.

As far as the culinary community, I help out with school farming and other projects through TUSD. I support them by purchasing products from them and helping them out and then try to buy locally whenever I can.

I’m also connecting with my patrons on a night-to-night basis just by touching tables and just kind of explaining what we do in the restaurant.

a man riding on the back of a motorcycle
(Photo courtesy of Isaac Stockton/ Off Kilter Productions)

Me: How do you keep the passion going with your relationship with food and cooking?

Solorzano: I feel like the way that I keep it going is by not letting it be my passion anymore. I feel like growing up it’s been so romanticized — that you have to be at the restaurant every single second of every day. And I don’t feel that that is a sustainable practice. I’m able to remove myself from the restaurant or at least I’m lucky enough to be in a restaurant where they allow me to be able to remove myself. With that, I’m able to come in more refreshed. It also makes me able to focus on my staff a little bit more rather than just having it be based on business.

Me: What is an ingredient that you wish you could use more but a lot of people tend to avoid?

Solorzano: Crickets. 

Me: What is something you wish was more honored more or less in cooking?

Solorzano: [Less] The need to use sour cream and white cheese so much. [More] Whole animal practices. It’s definitely a thing in Mexico, but not as much here. Sonora has the best beef and the best cheese in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all New York Strip covered in cheese.

Me: Who is someone who you relate to in the culinary world? Someone that when you’re coming up with new things on your menu, you find yourself thinking about.

Solorzano: Rod [Ledesma], I feel like he’s one that actually still has that childlike wonder for food. He still wants to push and he still is curious.

Me: Thanks for welcoming me into your home! Spay and neuter your pets!

David Solorzano tiki bar
(Photo courtesy of Isaac Stockton/ Off Kilter Productions)

Chef David Solorzano is the current executive chef at Agustin Kitchen, 100 S. Avenida del Convento #150. For more information about the restaurant, visit agustinkitchen.com.

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Article By

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...

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