Moises Treves, Phoenix Mexican Cuisine Pioneer, Has Died

Camaron al Mojo de Ajo at Así es la Vida
Camaron al Mojo de Ajo at Así es la Vida
Jackie Mercandetti

Moises Treves, the chef often credited with introducing Valley diners to Central Mexican cuisine, died last week. It's been more than a decade since the local food pioneer sold his Phoenix restaurant, Such Is Life, but the mark Treves made on the Valley food scene can still be seen -- and tasted -- today.

Treves opened Such is Life on 24th Street just north of Osborn Road in 1993. At that time his menu of delicacies such as mole, Veracruz-style pescado, and cochinita pibil was one of a kind in town. The fine-dining Mexican restaurant even got national attention, named one of Phoenix's most interesting dining destinations by the New York Times.

See also: Asi es la Vida: An Ongoing Culinary Love Story in Phoenix

The restaurant's story is an intriguing one that starts on the island of Cozumel in the mid-1970s. At that time Treves was a cook at a taco stand. He met an American tourist named Judy Anderson and the two became fast friends. At one point during Anderson's stay, Treves told her about his dream to open his own restaurant -- one he would call Such is Life, a saying he learned from his new friend.

On the last day of her trip, Anderson gave Treves an envelope with instructions to open it once she was gone. Inside he found $500 and a note: "Dear Moises. Go make 'Such Is Life' happen. Love Judy."

Within a month Treves has opened Such is Life on Cozumel and in 1993, he opened the restaurant here in Phoenix. The chef wouldn't get to thank Anderson for her generosity until 1997, when Unsolved Mysteries aired their story.

Today, Such is Life is still alive but in new form. The restaurant has changed hands a few times over the last decade and now survives under the name Asi Es La Vida, the Spanish translation of the original monkier.

The current owners have made some cosmetic changes, but have mostly kept Treves' original menu intact meaning you can still experience the dishes that helped put Treves and his restaurant on the map. They include Carne Tampiqueña, a plate of thinly sliced Angus sirloin with a roasted and soft poblano pepper stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and Pescado a la Veracruzana, a tilapia fillet covered in a spicy mix of tomatoes, capers, onions, and olives in a white wine sauce.

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