From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.
Today: a man we can't resist describing as saucy.
Tastemaker 83: Tony Morales
When Tony Morales realized no other company made barbecue sauces to his liking, he decided to parlay his passion for food into a business and in 2009 Desert Smoke BBQ was born. Today you can find Morales' BBQ sauces, hot sauces, and rubs in several states, online and at some of your favorite local markets and restaurants. When he's not creating new recipes or blogging about food, this California native and former Marine loves to travel.
I arrived in Phoenix... in 2003 with nothing but the clothes on my back (literally). The day I moved here, my U-Haul -- stuffed with everything I owned -- and my one-week-old new car was stolen, so Phoenix really was a clean slate for me.
If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be... my great grandmother -- I can still remember the avocado-colored appliances, yellowish linoleum, giant black cast-iron skillet on the stovetop that she cooked damn near everything in, and the love of food and cooking she instilled in me at an early age. Gordon Ramsey and Julia Child -- he because he's such an unapologetic prick and she because everything gets a little bit of wine, the two would be entertaining as hell! Fernand Point, the true father of modern French cuisine, and Grant Achatz for his twisted culinary brain. I'd love to hear his points of view on technique, ingredients and preparation each would bring to the table.
One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Carolina's. The red chile is delicious, the tortillas couldn't be fresher, and it's what taco shops around the country should aspire to.
One menu item this city could do without is... Cupcakes! They've just been done to death and I'm over them. I find it difficult to believe that such a pool of talented pastry types around the Valley can't find more imaginative ways to satisfy my sweet tooth.
My last meal in Phoenix would be... a multi-course progressive affair. I'd begin with a stop into FnB for an order of Chef [Charleen] Badman's spicy broccoli (she's the friggin' vegetable whisperer), a hot buttered lobster roll from Noca because I can't imagine lobster being happier, Wild boar bacon from Posh because few things taste so damn good, and a double scoop of huckleberry ice cream from Sweet Republic to finish the meal off. (If someone could get me a cappuccino from Press Coffee my night would be complete!)
The Tastemakers so far:
100: Tracy Dempsey
99: Craig DeMarco
98: Lara Mulchay
97: M.J. Coe
96: Betty Alatorre de Hong
95: Eric Schaefer
94: Hanna Gabrielsson
93: Shinji Kurita
92: Silvana Salcido Esparza
91: Mike Pitt
90: Christina Barrueta
89: Christopher Gross
88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung
87: DJ Fernandes
86: Cullen Campbell
85: Chris Lee
84. Gwen Ashley Walters
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