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Janos Wilder: A Chef’s Journey from Pizza to Paris by Way of Tucson


Janos Wilder: A Chef’s Journey from Pizza to Paris by Way of Tucson

By Jackie Dishner

When UNESCO named Tucson, Arizona a World City of Gastronomy in Dec. 2015, the first U.S. city so named, it put this small desert city on the global map. It also gave a boost to one of its top chefs, Janos Wilder.

In June, Wilder, a James Beard award-winner (2000, Best Chef: Southwest), represented Tucson at a reception in UNESCO’s Paris headquarters before the annual Creative Cities Network conference. In preparation he crafted the menu at his restaurant, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (DKC). It included local flavors he had to pack with him to France: poblano flautas with saguaro blossom syrup, a spicy shrimp dish sautéd with pickled cholla buds and Tamarindo Truffles, among other items.

A California native, Wilder got his start in the kitchen while studying political science at UC Berkeley and cooking at a pizza parlor in his off-school hours. On track for graduate school after earning his bachelor’s degree in 1976, he opted out. “I’d already found my passion,” he says, “and it was cooking.”

He moved to Colorado in the late ’70s for a job as chef at the historic Gold Hill Inn near Boulder. There he learned about cooking with a “sense of place”—the idea that if you close your eyes while eating, the flavors and aromas will tell you where you are. Rather than watching distributors drop off groceries, he was buying trout directly from local fisherman, beef from ranches on the nearby plains, and fresh mushrooms foraged in the fields.

“It was the authentic culinary expression of the region,” he says.

He loved it.


To read the full story by Jackie Dishner of Cal Magazine, click here.

To read Chef Janos Wilder's Blog and see pictures, click here.

Visit The Carriage House Facebook for more pictures.