Jonathan Revies is originally from Los Angeles, one of the best food scenes in the country. He credits his mom as a fantastic cook who taught him a variety of techniques catalyzing his love for the culinary arts. His younger sister, who passed away from breast cancer in 2011, worked as a server at a diner and they often spoke of starting a food business of their own. Jonathan has worked at The Shanty, Arizona's oldest continuously licensed bar, since 2009 in both day operations and as the weekend door host. The cooking bug never left him, and in 2013, Jonathan returned to school at Pima Community College to pursue a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management. JR is a busy man, also serving as the web services designer and social media marketer for the Chefs' Association of Southern Arizona (a division of the American Culinary Federation). Go see Jonathan at The Shanty, or look out for his own Tucson restaurant in the future.
What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
I don't know if it was any one dish, but my introduction to big game was eye-opening. In 2002, I worked as a host for Saddle Peak Lodge, a fine dining restaurant in the hills of Calabasas. That's when I got my first major exposure to gourmet cuisine and entrées like elk, bison, pheasant and eel. While at first I was dubious, I finally hunkered down and tried them. Now they're some of my favorites.
What are you eating these days?
Italian food, mostly. I enjoy good pizza and pasta dishes, and luckily, there are quite a few Italian restaurants here in the Old Pueblo. If I'm at home, some quick pasta and marinara or crusted chicken over fettuccine hits the spot. I try to make my own pizzas from time to time, too.
What was the first dish you remember cooking?
My mom is an amazing cook and was always making interesting things for us. Being from the South, we often had a lot of traditional Southern food. I recall falling in love with banana pudding as a kid and always wanting to have it around. My mom taught me how to make the custard and meringue from scratch, but we used Nilla wafers like most people. Later on, I was able to discover the recipe for homemade wafers and now have people begging for me to make banana pudding regularly.
What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can't stomach?
Quinoa. I've had it before and used it while cooking at Pima, but I don't really have much love for it. I know that it's considered a super food and has some very nutritious qualities to it, but some restaurants seem to be using it a lot on their menus.
What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Haha! OK, this is old-school ... Justin Wilson. He was a Southern chef who used to make a lot of Cajun-style food on his show, "Home Grown." I remember that he was always adding wine to everything he cooked (and drinking a little himself during the process). His Louisiana accent was humorous and he was prone to use his catchphrase, "I gar-on-tee!" There was just something about his laid-back style that made you laugh and hungry at the same time.
What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Well, I may be a little biased on this, but my old hometown of Los Angeles has some incredible restaurants. I was just there and had dinner at Il Tiramisu in the San Fernando Valley and it was just as awesome as I remembered. Whether it's seafood, sushi, Latin foods or Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, Los Angeles is a foodie's dream.
Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Dessert. I'm a sucker for a nice slice of cheesecake from Grimaldi's or a bowl of ice cream from ... well, anywhere. Clearly, my waistline wants me to become a pastry chef, but I'll take a good quality small dessert over a pig-out session.
Top three Tucson restaurants?
We have a great pool of fine restaurants to choose from in Tucson. There's no way I could ever stick to just three, so I'll say three that I've enjoyed this year. North at La Encantada always has fresh daily specials, consistently good entrées and a great staff. PY Steakhouse is just an amazing treat anytime I'm over in that area. The carpaccio and tartare of beef tenderloin appetizer is very good. Penca has some tasty cocktails and its happy hour menu features quite a few of my favorite items: chicharron, posole and roasted bone marrow.
With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Well, first I'd try a crack at a stay of execution. In the meantime, I'd want a delicious chicken parmesan with marinara and linguine, a summer salad featuring spinach, grapes and cranberries and a nice bowl of salted caramel gelato.