Anthony Dromgoole of Obon (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Anthony Dromgoole’s Journey From Line Cook to OBON’s Maestro of Sushi

February 29, 2024
By Sam Jump
By Sam Jump

With over a decade of culinary experience under his belt, including seven years dedicated the art of sushi, OBON’s new chef, Anthony Dromgoole brings a wealth of expertise and passion to the table. As OBON unveils its latest menu, brimming with Dromgoole’s blend of innovative creations and time-honored Japanese dishes, diners can anticipate a tasty experience that marries tradition with culinary ingenuity.

We introduce to you Chef Dromgoole, accompanied by a few photos of items from OBON’s much-anticipated new menu, which is now available.

a man standing in a kitchen preparing food
Anthony Dromgoole of Obon (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
What inspired you to pursue a career in sushi and Japanese cuisine?

It started when I was working at Ermanos under Dave Valencia. We hired a new line cook named Ruben, who blew everyone’s knife skills out of the water but couldn’t cook a burger to save his life. One day, we struck a deal: I’d teach him meat temps, and he’d teach me knife skills.

Fast forward to one dinner service when Chef Paulo from OBON came by Ermanos. As he was leaving he stopped by the kitchen and I jokingly said, “See you tomorrow chef,” not thinking that his response would be an invitation to stage on sushi at OBON. I went in the next day, super nervous, put a yellowtail in front of me, and told me to cut it. I looked back at him, not knowing what it was nor how to cut it. He told me to do what I felt was right so I started to break it down like the only fish I knew how to at the time — a salmon. The veteran sushi team just watched as I mangled the fish. Then Paulo showed me how to do it one time, which is the way I’ve been doing it since.

Can you share some highlights of your culinary background and experience prior to joining OBON?

My first kitchen job was at Olive Garden. I was 17 years old and in culinary school. Shortly after that, I was hired as part of the opening team for Texas Roadhouse, where I worked for nearly three years before Ermanos opened and Dave reached out, inviting me to advance my culinary skills. From there, I worked mornings at Cup Cafe and nights at OBON while I learned sushi until I went full-time.

I went to Seattle for a couple of months to cook out there and joined the OBON Scottsdale location for a year and a half before coming back to Tucson. I worked for Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen under Chef Tanner and Chef Devon and then bounced over to Maynard’s to work with Chef Brain Smith and Chef Joel.

a man standing in a kitchen preparing food
Anthony Dromgoole of Obon (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

During COVID, when the restaurants closed, I sold barbecue out of my house so I could keep doing what I loved even though the world had shut down.

When things opened up, I was with Chef Yoshimi-san at Yoshimatsu for a short time with Chef Yoshimi-san. Then I took a break from sushi while I soused at at Commoner and Co., and then I took on the role of Market Chef at sister concept, Flora’s. Then came the opportunity to work at Sushi on Oracle. So I learned from Yoshi-San for a short time before coming back home to lead the sushi program at OBON.

I’ve cooked all over, gathering knowledge from chefs in all cuisines, but sushi is definitely my passion.

What drew you to OBON and what excites you most about being part of their team?

It was a tight-knit group of people giving Tucson great food while always trying to elevate and grow. And now it feels great to be a part of setting the tone and be able to give Tucsonans some of the best sushi in town.

a plate of food on a table
Obon (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
Are there any signature dishes or styles of sushi that you specialize in or are particularly passionate about?

Honestly, I get asked this all the time, and I have always said that I have no specialty — that I love to do it all. But I’ve recently rethought it, and I realize that I specialize in composed bites and edible art. I know that sounds super pretentious but it’s real life.

Both of my parents were in the arts — my dad was a music director, and my mom’s first degree was in graphic design. But I realize it even when I eat. If there are four items on my plate, I will build each bite on my fork. With sushi, I realized that I like to do nigiri one-biters, sashimi platters, and crudos. And if you think about it, that’s how I eat. That is why I love to do Omakaze-style dining for guests because it’s like a great song or painting — it’s composed!

The most recent dish that I’ve felt proud of is my A5 Wagyu Wrapped Scallops Skewers. They will definitely blow your mind.

a plate of food with broccoli
A5 Wagyu Wrapped Scallops Skewers at Obon (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
How do you approach creating new sushi rolls or dishes? Do you draw inspiration from traditional Japanese techniques or incorporate unique flavors and ingredients?

When coming up with new dishes I definitely try to follow Japanese traditions while also incorporating techniques and flavors I have picked up along the way. I am Black and Mexican by blood, which exposed me to many different cultures and cuisines as a kid. And it very much translates into my food.

Can you tell us about any upcoming specials or events at OBON that sushi enthusiasts should look forward to?

We have been running a 10-piece Omakaze program of rotating fish and seasonal bites. So, Tucson should definitely be excited about those weekend additions, which are coming soon. We will also be bringing our one-of-a-kind sustainable, line-caught blue fin dinner back to Tucson in the near future, and we recently collaborated with Empower Coalition for their beefsteak dinner, featuring our Omakaze.

What sets OBON apart from other sushi restaurants in Tucson, and how do you plan to contribute to its culinary identity?

Obon has always been considered a high-end sushi restaurant in Tucson. I would like to kick us up another notch to compete with some of the dining experiences in Phoenix and other big cities. People still think Tucson is a horse-and-buggy town and we are far from it. Hell, we have been a GUT city for some time now with culinary giants paving the way. Now it’s time to bring the sushi in this town up to that level.

a plate of food on a table
Bao Buns Obon (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
Are there any sustainability practices or sourcing principles that you prioritize when selecting ingredients for your sushi creations?

We’re currently trying to be mindful of ordering ingredients that are in season and staying away from over-fished species. We also try to educate our guests about other fine fish in the sea, and we highlight local vendors such as Bobby of Vista Micro Greens and his amazing products.

Lastly, what message or experience do you hope to convey to diners through your sushi, and how do you aim to leave a lasting impression on OBON’s guests?

I would love to give our guests an experience that they go home and think about after. Not just the food they ate but the service as well — a long-lasting memory that they can hold on to forever. All while paying homage to Japanese techniques and traditions.

OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen is located at 350 E. Congress St. For more information and the full menu, visit

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Sam Jump is a conduit of empowerment and connection, fueled by her drive to leave a mark on the world that reminds others of the power of compassion, curiosity, and community. Her ability to integrate clear vision and mindful communication...

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