Over the past two years, I was fortunate enough to receive exciting new stamps on my passport traveling to explore the food and culture of other countries and highlighting the cuisine of Tucson abroad.
This summer began with a long and exciting trip to China. I was invited to cook and present at a worldwide tourism event in Yantai China as the only chef representative from the United States. It was a huge honor and a humbling experience. I had the privilege of meeting chefs from other countries and working next to them to provide inventive menus to thousands of people. For almost two weeks, we worked long 15 hour days preparing and serving food to locals and tourists alike.
The working conditions in China offered me a new perspective on what being a chef truly means. I had no hot water, limited space, and the sanitation of the kitchen was unlike any I have seen before. With that said, it was an experience that reminded me why I love what I do. As a chef, I thrive with a blank canvas, and that is what this experience felt like to me. I was stripped of my normal comforts – ingredients I know and work with often, my tools, my kitchen equipment, and the palate of my everyday consumers. I had to start fresh and new. Experimenting with new ingredients was a challenge, especially the attempt to make American cuisine with Chinese ingredients. Through all of the challenges of my cooking experience in China, my food knowledge expanded, and I explored a new level of confidence in my abilities. Upon coming home, I quickly started working on creating the Maynards’ new summer menu, and I looked back at the long list of dishes I created in China for some great inspiration.
Next time you dine with us, try the new Pork Belly dish! This dish was inspired by the pork and beans dish I created in China. I hope to add more stamps to my passport soon and continue to spotlight the amazing culinary scene of Tucson to the rest of the world.