With Tucson 23: Mexican Food Festival only a month away, we are delving deeper into some of our local featured chefs to find out what it takes to create truly memorable Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. This week we sat down with Jimmy Beldon, head chef at Reforma Cocina y Cantina, to discuss his personal cooking philosophies, how to keep traditional culinary culture alive, and his advice for new chefs.
Jimmy Beldon has been in the industry for 18 years and like any industry veteran, his passion for creating memorable culinary dishes that consistently impress his guests is the main driving force that gets him through the long nights behind the stove. “You really gotta love what you do. The whole thing about working in a kitchen is you gotta keep it fun,” says Jimmy on his personal cooking philosophies, “That’s usually the biggest thing, I’m always trying to make sure my team is having a good time.” From the moment you walk into Reforma, the energy is unmistakable. The restaurant is beautifully decorated and the staff most certainly love what they do. No matter if you come on a busy Friday night or a calm Tuesday afternoon, everyone from the waitress to the chefs is ready to make your meal a true experience from start to finish. “I really want people to know that when they eat here it’s going to be good and that when they come back it’s going to be just as good if not better. Consistency is first and foremost in any restaurant.”
Even a short look through Reforma’s menu shows Jimmy’s passion for keeping traditional Southwestern and Mexican cuisine alive in the modern age of constantly evolving flavors. From their Horchata French Toast to their fresh Calabacitas, the familiar tastes of the dishes culinary roots still shine through even when paired with new original ingredients. “I was born and raised in Tucson and I’ve been cooking and eating traditional local cuisine my whole life. Southwestern cooking is about creating very robust flavors that just pop. One of my favorite things to do is bridge in other flavors from around the world and find a way to meld them with traditional Southwestern flavors. We try to put a more modern take on Mexican food and bring in ingredients that you wouldn’t normally see like our Pork Belly Tacos or taking our Chili Relleno and doing something more with it.” Jimmy has never been one to shy away from a challenge and he prides himself on balancing the line between traditional and modern, while still paying respects to the dish. He occasionally gets a little push back from his “crazier” ideas, but in the end, he knows his ingredients well and always promises to wow his guests with every new menu addition. “The mole poblano that we make here was such a challenge for me, all the flavors that you have to bring together. Often it comes down to people saying why not just use someone else’s recipe, but I’d rather make the mistakes, perfect it and create something new. We do a duck confit here and without that sauce it would be just like any other duck confit."
Before letting Jimmy get back to feeding his hungry guests at Reforma, we had to ask him what advice, if any, he would like to pass on to young local chefs studying to carry on the new generation of Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. “Cooking is really something you have to look deep inside yourself about and ask yourself if this is really something that you wanna do, because it’s a lot of work. Some people think they wanna do it, because they watch all these cooking shows and they’re like yeah I wanna do that. But it’s different once you get in there, so it has to be something you’re into and you can’t just be doing it for the money.
Want to see what Jimmy Beldon can pull off first hand? Join us for the 2nd Annual Tucson 23: Mexican Food Festival at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Saturday, June 17th to try some of the amazing food you can expect from Reforma and so many other amazing restaurants along Tucson’s famous 23 miles of Mexican food!
Find out more about the event and special room rates for the weekend at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa HERE: https://www.saaca.org/tucson23.html