Addam Buzzalini may run downtown’s most sophisticated, nouveau-French bistro, but in his spare time he likes to eat cheesesteaks smothered in Cheese Whiz and drink discount beer. The executive chef at Maynards Market and Kitchen has surprisingly low-brow tastes for someone so adept in the kitchen, but at the same time he embodies America’s new culinary direction.
Buzzalini may serve fancy food, but he does it in a fresh and genre-bending way. In his world, French comfort foods like poutine (French fries with short rib gravy and cheese) play off dishes like buffalo tartare and sautés of organic vegetables.
On Halloween day, Buzzalini will compete against Tucson mainstay Jim Murphy (Kingfisher, Bluefin) in the Copper Chef Challenge at the Tucson Culinary Festival. A few days before the contest, both restaurants will prepare a beef-focused dinner for all the attendees at the throwdown/brunch, which will also be a course in the Iron Chef-style challenge at the event. (Attendees will also get to vote on their favorite.) [Editor's note: Buzzalini won. Congrats!]
Before the smackdown, we shared a beer with Buzzalini (he ordered a Lagunitas IPA) post-shift at Maynards and talked about his favorite dives, where he gets his tattoos and Christopher Walken’s characters on Saturday Night Live.
Where do you go when you get a craving?
When I have a craving for something, I go to Frankie’s. I actually have a couple more: BK’s ... I get the same thing every time: I get two carne asada tacos, two fish tacos, two Sonoran dogs. It’s food for (a person who) only eats every four days. (At Frankie’s) I get a 12-inch, extra meat, extra Whiz, hot peppers and onions. And I get an order of cheese fries, which is just fries covered in more Cheese Whiz.
What’s the most important ingredient you use and where do you find it?
Anything to do with pork. ... Salmon Creek Farms is a good one—in Twin Falls, Idaho. I have gotten some locally raised stuff down in Sonoita on occasion. Pretty cool stuff. We’ll get a whole pig in and use every single part of it and make head cheese with it, sausages. ... You can do anything with pork. I respect the pig.
Where do you like to go to get a drink?
Tap Room at Hotel Congress. ... (I usually order) a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a Beam on the rocks.
Who has the best Sonoran dogs in town?
The Ruiz brothers on 22nd and Sixth. That little truck there. They are from another planet, these things. True story. They’re amazing. They take the buns that are already made with lard, and then they toast them in butter on the flat top, both sides. Then they have this jalapeño sauce thing that they put on there along with the rest of the works, and those little white-yellow peppers. ... But they actually toss them with lime juice and salt, which takes them to a whole new level. ... Bar none, best Sonoran dog. I put my life on it.
Where’s your favorite farm in the area?
My favorite farms in Tucson are Agua Linda: They grow herbs, some micro vegetables and stuff. And there’s also Forever Young Farms. We get our butternut squash from them right now.
Where do you go for your tattoos?
I have only gotten one tattoo here in Tucson. It’s a little sad tooth. A little rotten tooth. I got it at—it’s on the corner of Pima and Country Club. (Tattoo Artistry)
How many tattoos do you have?
One, two. ... [Points to his arm] It’s biomechanics, kind of like organic metal. This is asparagus, and honey, bees, bacon and eggs, tomatoes, a pepper grinder, a fish. ... That’s honey dripping off of a stick. There’s grapes and mushrooms and peppers and fish and crabs and morel mushrooms. ... [Finishes counting] 17 to 18? I don’t know.
Are you going to be food for Halloween?
If we do go out and party, I’m going to be Colonel Angus from Saturday Night Live. Who’s in the sketch? I can’t think of his name. He’s the guy that does the champagna! (Christopher Walken)
What’s your favorite weird/cool Tucson landmark?
(In addition to Hotel Congress) The Meet Rack. I went there one time about a month ago with my wife and some friends. And it was so completely amazing and over the top, I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my life. Outstanding, and completely disgusting and offensive at the same time.