Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

On this week’s show, we’re going to revisit our 2019 interview with Jonathan Mabry and Janos Wilder of the nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy. Lots of news lately in the gastronomical world and we’re going to see what this designation meant and how it’s impacting our local food scene three years later.

Today is July 3rd, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to UArizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app.

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Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Beach Boys, “Vegetables.”


Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you are listening to Ktdt Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunchour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored rock and roll radio station.

On this week’s show, we’re going to revisit our 2019 interview with Jonathan Mabry and Janos Wilder of the nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy. Lots of news lately in the gastronomical world and we’re going to see what this designation meant and how it’s impacting our local food scene three years later.

Today is July 3, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focused on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a Mountain to you, Arizona, and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on, also available on your smartphone if you get our Downtown Radio Tucson app. And

of course, if you want to reach us on the show, our email address is [email protected]. You can interact with us on social media like Facebook and Instagram. Our podcast is out there wherever you find them and we’ve got episodes on our website, Tomorrow is July 4 and that means a few things. Weather permitting. It means fireworks here in Tucson 25th annual City of Tucson Fireworks Display, brought to us by Desert Diamond Casino and Entertainment Group. It’s going to be shot off there at a mountain starting around 09:00 p.m.. And you can get some good vantage points from the TCC parking lot. And walk down and take a walk around and notice that the Echo Plaza has been redone and there’s a lot of new and exciting things happening around the convention center. It’s all tomorrow. If you go to the city’s website, there’s some maps of places to park and witness the fireworks, as well as see some of the different food vendors and such that will be in the general

area. There might be a cost for parking, so double check their website before you head down there. The news lately has been filled with good gastronomical news here in Tucson. Don Guerra of Barrio Bread was the James Beard award winning baker. He’s been nominated in the past and this year he won. That award is similar to winning like an Oscar in the movie world. So getting that designation was huge for him as an individual. And so much for Tucson. And then just a couple of days ago, the City of Gastronomy announced the 2022 certified businesses. These were businesses that are based upon their efforts to support the local food economy, keeping the food heritage alive, community minded practices, sustainability, things like that. They received a designation from the nonprofit City of Gastronomy and it’s just a great way to celebrate more of Tucson’s commitment to our heritage and our culture. The City of Gastronomy designation dates way back to, I think, 2015. And because of all this recent

news, we wanted to replay an interview that we had actually in 2019 with Jonathan Maverick and Yanis Wilder. They are two of the members of the City of Gastronomy nonprofit. And we actually had a two part episode. We’re going to replay just part one for you this week. We’re going to talk to Jonathan and Yanis about the history of this designation, how we got it, and what’s that meant for our local food scene. The audio is not the greatest. We had some issues with that, but the information is so good, we couldn’t pass it up. So this is our 2019 interview with Jonathan Mabry and Yanis Wilder.

I’m Jonathan Mabry, and I’m the executive director of the nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy.

Also with yourself, the University of Arizona.

Yes. I’m also a researcher at the Desert Laboratory on Tumamama Hill.

I’m Yano Swyler. I’m the president of the board of the Tucson City Board of Directors. And I own Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails, where we’re sitting today, and the Carriage House, which is our event space.

And gentlemen, thank you both for your time. This interview came about because in 2015, I believe the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization, I believe UNESCO designated Tucson is the first city in at least the United States as a City of Gastronomy. And it’s part of their Creative City’s designations. And I was just actually floored by the amount of time and effort. This wasn’t a fluke that they just picked Tucson as the first city. There’s a lot of effort that went into that. Can you kind of talk about that?

Yeah, it was a two year effort. And I have to start with Gary Nabhan, who is a well known anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and author and a local foods activist who came to the mayor of Tucson. And to me at the time, I was the historic preservation officer for the city. And he told us about this Creative Cities network and he said Tucson should apply to be a City of Gastronomy. And I’ve collaborated with Gary on various things over more than 30 years and knowing well, and the mayor was on board and I was on board. And we had a whole group that worked on the application. In 2014 was the first time we applied. And it was a great group, and we learned so much by compiling the information needed for the application. And then when we heard back from UNESCO, we got a one page letter that said we had a strong application, but we just missed the scoring cut off. But they encouraged us to reapply the letter, said, you can strengthen your application in this way. And by the way, no city has gotten

their first try. So we were encouraged to try again. And we thought we’ll just beef up the application that we already had because they already told us how to make it better. But when the new call for applications came out the next year, the questions were completely different and the format was completely different. But anyway, long story short, we did reapply and in December of 2015 we got the great news that we received the designation.

Now, the application, this isn’t just saying hey, we got really cool restaurants, we’ve got Yanos, we’ve got all this great food. There’s a huge backstory to all of this.

UNESCO created this program to recognize cities that are using culture and creativity as strategies for sustainable development. And they’re looking for cities, not the biggest, most obvious cities in each of these creative fields, but the up and coming cities where this designation can make a difference. And the other creative fields, by the way, are music, film, literature, media, arts, design, crafts and folk art and gastronomy. And a city can apply for designation in any one of those fields. I often get the question why didn’t Tucson also apply for one of those other fields? Because we’re good at some of those things too, but we’re only allowed to apply under one field.

That’s it.

That’s it. And you’re right that we did not receive the designation because of our great restaurants. We have great restaurants. But the reason we got the designation, I believe, is because of our unparalleled agricultural history in this area. This area has the longest continuous agricultural history in the United States going back more than 4000 years. And other things that were emphasized in the application include the University of Arizona is a world leader in food research and education. And we have these innovative progressive policies and regulations by the city and the county that make it easier to grow and sell food within the urban area. And we have all of these food activist organizations that are raising awareness of the issues of food insecurity and food injustice. And we have amazing programs like our county library system. You can walk into any of the 17 branches with your library card and check out free desert adapted seeds to take home and grow a food garden in your yard.

And it goes on and on. So it’s a combination of our deep agricultural history, our culturally layered cuisine and all of the innovative things we’re doing in different parts of our food system that I believe are the reasons that we received the designation.

Really quickly though we’re very fortunate then because your history with the city, your role at the city, helped to uncover some of that 4000 years worth of archeology. And you’re also known, I think, as one of the forerunners of the local food movement here in Tucson.

Well, thank you. That actually was

part of my career before I got to the city. But yes, I am an archeologist and I was involved in some of the investigations that demonstrated Tucson’s deep agricultural history. And I was also on the board of the santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance, which was an early leader in the local and heritage foods movement.

All right, we’re going to be back to the second piece of our 2019 interview with Jonathan Mavery and Yanis Wilder in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you were listening to Lifelong Streetcar on downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for [email protected].

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We’re going to get back to the second half of our interview with Jonathan Maybree and Yanos Wilder about the City of Gastronomy designation, what it means for Tucson. And as a reminder, this interview was first recorded in 2019 and we’re almost three years later, so keep that in mind as you’re listening to some of the information. But the importance of how this designation has transformed Tucson’s culinary scene is certainly important.

Well, then we have Yanos, who has a reputation for his food quality. Your first restaurant was opened in Tucson. And

I remember I looked back and I found an article in Tucson Citizen. I thought this was a perfect summary for today. This was on October 28 at 1983, so a few days before you opened and they were asking about your cuisine and there was a question about whether there was a French influence and that would be so heavy on the food. And the last phrase of that article was your quote saying, the food will be prepared in a way that speaks for itself.


That seems to have been indicative of your entire career here, too. So the food speaks for itself.

Well, thanks. I don’t remember saying that, but that’s a pretty good quote. That’s profound. I’m not sure what it means, though. Yeah, we opened our first restaurant here, actually on Holloway three days after that article came out in and I had come back from working in France and we settled here in Tucson. My wife from Nogallas, we’ve been living in Colorado and then Santa Fe before that. I went to work in Bordeaux and came back and my first love was French cooking. And out of all the things that I learned working in France with the heart and soul of French cuisine was the relationship between the chef and his gardener, or the chef and his bread maker, or the chef and the fisherman. And so it was really about where you got your products that determined what you cooked. And so I was determined at that point to really look into the sourcing of my products. So we literally did start advertising for gardeners back then before we advertise for staff. But still I wanted to cook French food,

but localize it by using local ingredients. At that point I didn’t even know what were the local ingredients because I’m new to the desert at that point and better grow the things I know about because nothing else grows here. And then began to realize that. Donna recognition took some period of time. But over the years I realized the incredible deep and long history, agricultural history. They started using a lot of those products and our cooking really developed the flavor profiles that we work with, steep both in agricultural products and their cultural culinary histories as well, to create and to determine what the cultural culinary icons of the region were to work with those.

So it seems like a natural fit to get involved with the city of astronomy. But how did you get where you pulled in? Or did you hear about this and say, Hey, let me in?

No. Jonathan was the primary author of the application. I’ve known Gary for many years as well, and I’m not sure who it was that invited me to participate in the application process or part of the application. I was part of the application process and became interested because I soon realized that we were sort of on parallel paths because that had really become, in many ways, my life work was working with the ingredients from this region and the flavors of the region and so the things that were in that application and what it meant to be a city of astronomy, the things that were super important to me. And so then I was invited to be on the board right after it started. I think I might have been on one of the initial board and I’ve been on it ever since. Jonathan was the board president and has just over the summer become an executive director. And I took on the role of board president.

So that leads to, I think, the next part, which is this designation was not just an award, this is an obligation and a responsibility. It’s actually led to even the application probably seems like the easy part at this point, because it’s led to an entire effort to maintain that designation. You just don’t get it. And hanging on the wall there’s a.

Couple of ways because, yes, we are required, and Jonathan will speak to the details of that, but we’re required to recertify every five years. We are applying for recertification right now, but it channels the work that we do. In a way it doesn’t feel like an obligation, it feels more like an honor. The work that we’re doing in Tucson is so exciting and so fun and so multi layer that, yeah, we need to be doing this, but boy, what a great opportunity to do it. And channels reference in ways that they might not have been channeled otherwise. So it creates terrific opportunities. At the same time, it is really cool. It is really fun that we’re doing. Maybe Jonathan wants to talk a little bit more about that recertification process, but I think to talk about some of the really neat things we’re doing, we want to get into those as well. Yeah.

So I’m currently working on our Year Four report to tell UNESCO what have we been doing with the designation and we’re going to give you a few examples in a minute. But you’re right, we do have a responsibility to work toward UNESCO’s goals for the designation, which include using the designation to support the producers of our food heritage and also connecting with the other cities in the network to exchange ideas and best practices, exchange knowledge. So we participate in annual conferences of the Creative Cities Network. And in between those conferences, there are several meetings a year of just the cities of Gastronomy from around the world getting together. Usually each city brings a chef with them and there’s amazing cooking demonstrations, but there’s also business being conducted and exchanges of ideas and knowledge and development of collaborations between the cities of Gastronomy. So it’s really interesting and Tucson is getting a lot out of it, those exchanges. And we’re also

viewed as a leader because of all of the innovative programs we’ve developed.

So Jonathan, you make that sound a little bureaucratic and there’s that side of it, but that translates on the ground in our everyday lives into really cool things that it brings to Tucson. For instance, last night we had an event, I don’t know when you’re going to air this, but in fact it was last night that we had an event at the Carriage House that become an annual event called Chefs on the Global Stage. We actually train young chefs to become chef ambassadors for Tucson. And that’s kind of a lot of work because there’s a lot of things beyond knowing how to cook. There’s a lot that goes into becoming an ambassador. And we have now sent over the last years that we’ve had this designation, eight chefs around the world as our ambassadors. The event that we had, the Carriage House was Chefs on a Global Stage. One of the chefs that we sent out last year, and there were five of them that went around the world, what did they serve? How did they represent us in Tucson? They represented us from

a gastronomic and culinary perspective in these cities. In Sunday, they were in Macau, they were in Savager, Norway, and I’m missing.

One right now, belle and Brazil, parma, Italy, Paris, Damia, Spain.

And these are Tucson chefs.

These are Tucson chefs. So we’re not only importing ideas and importing tourists, which is huge thing benefit to Tucson, but we’re exporting our cuisine around the world. That is so cool. And the impact on one these young chefs who are going around the world are not only thinking, but they’re bringing back ideas and performing relationships with their peers and colleagues around the world. For me, as an older chef, watching this happen is just out of sight. It’s one of the most fun things I get to do.

It’s great to see how they come back so inspired.

It’s awesome. Then we bring that back to Tucson. Tucson natives in many cases are taking so much more of an interest about what the identity, the culinary identity of the hometown is and portraying that and the menus on the restaurants. I’ve been doing this my whole life and we didn’t see that for a long time. I felt in some ways that the work that I was doing existed, sort of, but in a vacuum. We’re doing those sorts of things totally fine. But that has changed because of the designation. It’s not because the ones come back, it’s because of that designation which brings a recognition to who we are and validates who we are from a global perspective.

And since 2015, there’s been an additional city in the United States needs to receive the designation.

San Antonio received that designation two years ago and the same year that we received the designation, ensenada received the designation. So we were the Ensenada in the United States for the first two in North America and would do something.

So that was Janus Wilder. He was joined in that interview in 2019 by Jonathan Maybree. They are both of the nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy. In 2019, we aired this as a two part segment. The segment you just heard here was the first week and then we moved into the second week. Part two, we focused on the impacts of the designation as it comes to the education of the chefs, the understanding of our history and our culture and really how it’s impacted our economy with food tourism. If you want to hear the second part of that interview, you can head over to our website and then just type in Gastronomy and you will find both of those original stories available for you. Well, my name is Tom Heath and you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on

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Hey, thanks for tuning in for another episode here of a Lifelong Streetcar. Appreciate you putting up us as we go. A flash in the past, a throwback Sunday on this July 3 independence day weekend. Got to air the story we did back in 2019. I think that’s one of the exciting things for me now is we’ve got almost five years in the books. We’ve got over 200 episodes. This was episode 209. We’ve talked to 175, 180 people. We’ve got all this information out there and as we’re seeing it come into play and be more impactful, it’s great to go back and talk at the very beginning, because when we had this interview with Jonathan and Yanis, there was no city of the astronomy designation for Tucson. There were no restaurants available for the certification. They were just kind of launching that. And now we see how it’s impacting our local restaurant scene. And they’ve got all these different components to it. So check out their website, the Tucson city of astronomy and you can stay up to date with all

that info. You can also head over to our website if you listen to that interview from 2019 or the second part of it. As we talked about education, understanding history and being an ambassador, well, if you ever have a topic you want us to cover, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our best way is probably through social media, Instagram and Facebook. Both of those are lifelong Streetcar. You have our web page, You can contact us there. We would love to hear from you. We’re going to wrap up today’s show about food with little music from 1967. It’s off of a Beach Boys album. Believe it or not, we don’t play many beach Boys here. It’s Beach Boys album 1967. It was called Smiley Smile and this song is titled Vegetables. Hope you have a great 4 July. Keep it safe and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.

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