Dining Out | Local

Dining Out : Chef Bios 11.9.18



Born and raised in Tucson, Mark Smith is a Catalina High School graduate. He started working in restaurants as a teenager and took that training to open the Eclectic Café in October 1980 when he was 24. Smith brings a variety of flavors to Eclectic Café’s menu so that the whole family can be satisfied. He says the secret to the restaurant business is fresh ingredients, consistency and fast, friendly service. His goal is to make every guest feel special when they walk through the doors. Smith has enjoyed seeing the generations of families come through the doors of the café and watching the staff go from high school graduates to college graduates to professionals in the work force. In his free time, Smith enjoys playing tennis, traveling and, no surprise, cooking!



Phil Ferranti opened El Cisne Restaurant with his son, George, and team of Nancy Carnero and
Alicia Gastelum in January 2013 at Swan and Sunrise (El Cisne means “The Swan” in Spanish). They added to the now 26-year tradition by reuniting many more staff members from Phil’s previous establishment, La Placita Café in the Plaza Palomino. El Cisne offers “Platillos de la Sala,” dining room dishes, in a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere. El Cisne is also a great place for lunch or happy hour cocktails at “The Black Swan Tequila Bar.”


Suzana Davila, owner

Growing up in Sonora, Suzana Davila observed firsthand the bustle and fun of her father’s restaurant. Traveling extensively through Mexico enjoying the limitless decadent culinary offerings led her to open her first restaurant.

Today, more than three decades later, Suzana occupies a more prominent place on Tucson’s culinary landscape, having become one of the Southwest’s most celebrated chefs. “I truly am humbled by the support that Tucson has shown year after year,” Davila says. “To be here every night and to still feel that energy, fueled by the ambiance and the creative dishes, is what still keeps me inspired!”


Walter and Frida Salazar, co-owners

The Salazar family (Walter Salazar, Frida Salazar, and their daughter, Frida Hunt) are natives of Peru and arrived in the United States in 2001. They all worked a variety of blue-collar jobs that allowed them to rise up as a family to own a restaurant in one of the most sought after locations in Tucson. Walter and his wife owned Villa Peru in Tempe for six years and moved the restaurant to Tucson to be near family. Every meal at Villa Peru is a way for them to share Peruvian culture with their Arizona neighbors. Their selection of sophisticated Peruvian dishes and traditionally made pisco-themed cocktails can take guests on a vicarious adventure they won’t soon forget.


Jorge (Giorgio) Leon, chef/owner

Jorge Leon’s passion for cooking started as a teenager when he dined at a friend’s home and first experienced dishes from Emilia Romagna, a region in northern Italy.  He studied cooking through television shows, cookbooks, and numerous courses before opening the first Ragazzi in Nogales in 1996. He perfected his skills with a trip to Emilia Romagna. In 2002, he opened Ragazzi in Tucson, later moving it to Green Valley. He opened a sister restaurant in Tubac, Ragazzi International Cuisine; a third restaurant in 2016 in Nogales; and a fourth restaurant in 2017 in Oro Valley.


Lisa and Reza Shapouri, owners

Lisa and Reza Shapouri met in 1986 at a now-closed Coco’s Bakery Restaurant on West Drachman Street, where he was the general manager and she was the hostess.  They married in 1988. In the 1990s, the Shapouris owned and operated Chelsea’s Bar and Grill, and Reza then spent 18 years working in restaurant distribution and consulting. The couple bought Harvest Restaurant in Oro Valley in 2011, and opened the second Harvest location on River Road in 2015. Their menus focus on scratch cooking, healthful eating, seasonality, uniqueness and using local purveyors.



Mary Steiger started cooking as a child and by the time she was 7, knew she wanted to be a baker when she grew up. Susan Fulton came from a family with a passion for food and always fantasized about owning a restaurant. The two traveled different roads until their paths met in Tucson, where they discovered a mutual desire to promote wellness through food choices. The dedicated, certified gluten-free bakery/bistro is the result of their collaboration.


Carlos I. Garcia, executive chef

Chef Carlos I. Garcia was born and raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. A lifelong passion for cooking began with assisting his mother and grandmother in the kitchen during family gatherings. He graduated with high honors from Caribbean Culinary Institute in 2000 and began his career working with a well-known Puerto Rican chef.  In 2005, Carlos joined the Ritz Carlton Hotels Company, where he had the opportunity to work and grow in the United States, Middle East and Europe.  In 2016, he joined Desert Diamond Casinos & Entertainment.


Daniela Borella, executive chef 


When Daniela Borella and her family moved from Italy to Tucson in the late ’80s, they decided to open a small Italian café that served simple Italian cuisine in a family atmosphere. Daniela’s mother, Edy, was the original chef, and her father, Italo, provided the fresh-made pasta until his death in 2013. Caffe Torino opened in Oro Valley in 2000. Since Edy’s retirement in 2006, Daniela and Co-Executive Chef David Royle have continued to execute the family recipes. A second location, Caffe Torino in the Foothills, opened in 2013.


Chuck Scott, executive chef   

Native Tucsonan Chuck Scott got his start cooking at The Good Earth. He was on Loews Ventana Canyon Resort’s opening team, then moved to Loews Glenpointe Hotel in New Jersey. Tucson experience includes The Westward Look Resort and Ilsa’s Konditorei. In Southern California he was a resort executive chef, then owned a bakery/cafe for eight years before joining the Highlands.


Claire Johnson, co-owner

Claire Johnson, an Illinois native born into a family of creative cooks, began her culinary career as a produce buyer and founded an organic food co-op on Chicago’s north side. She relocated to Arizona in 1980 and became the head chef at the Blue Willow, followed by cooking stints at Oro Valley Country Club, Loews Ventana and C.B. Rye. In 1986, Claire bought Dyna Café and transformed it into the present-day Claire’s Café and Art Gallery.


MASSIMO TENINO, chef/owner

Born and raised in Northern Italy, where he learned his cooking skills from his mother and grandmother, Massimo Tenino came to the United States in 1993 and spent the next years developing his culinary style in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 2003, he moved to Tucson where he opened Tavolino Ristorante Italiano the following year. Since then, Chef Tenino has received consistently rave reviews and the restaurant continues to be one of Tucson’s favorite places for lunch, dinner or happy hour.


Renee and Steve Kreager, owners 

Renee and Steve Kreager moved to Tucson from Detroit in 1997. He worked in Italian kitchens, spinning pizzas in Detroit and Tucson; she worked in “front of the house” restaurant positions. In 2002, Renee, pregnant with their son, developed a passion and understanding for creating clean food. In 2005, they opened the restaurant they had longed for, offering Italian classics alongside fusion pizzas, with local foods and dessert and coffee service. Today, Steve is the chef, Renee collaborates on recipe development, and their son, Jeff, works in the restaurant.


McKenzie Taylor, chef 

McKenzie Taylor attended Pima Community College’s culinary program in 2007 and fell in love with cooking. She has worked in multiple commercial kitchens, with extensive experience in catering and menu development. Most recently, she was executive chef at Pantano Christian Church. Raised in Southern California, McKenzie moved to Tucson 12 years ago with her husband, Kyle. They have a daughter, Lyla, who is in the sixth grade. McKenzie loves to travel, exploring new restaurants and taking cooking classes to learn new cuisines and techniques.


Brian Smith, executive chef 

Executive Chef Brian Smith, Tucson’s Iron Chef, has been Instrumental in creating a fresh approach to the dining experience and vibe of Maynards Market & Kitchen, an award-winning downtown restaurant. Chef Brian’s menu features heritage ingredients and produce picked from the on-property Maynards Garden. With a passion for local foods and continued knowledge, Brian is making a name for himself in the downtown Tucson culinary world by applying a modern twist to seasonal plates.



Virginia Wooters, executive chef 

Virginia Wooters brings 25 years of culinary experience to Alloro. Originally from Virginia, she grew up in Tucson and graduated from Sabino High School. Her first restaurant job at age 15 was at Dairy Queen, followed by Canyon Ranch. She was an executive chef in Portland, Oregon, and locally at McClintock’s and Wildflower Grill. Over the last several years, she has helped open and developed menus for many projects, including Jax Kitchen, Jackson Tavern, Poppy Kitchen and The Abbey.



Andreas Delfakis, founder and executive chef 

Andreas Delfakis was born in 1942 on a farm in Dara, Greece. After graduating from carpentry trade school, he immigrated to Montreal, Canada, in the 1950s and then to Los Angeles, Sacramento and Chicago, where he worked in exclusive hotel restaurants like the Drake. In 1974, he moved his family to Tucson. He built and owned several restaurants before opening Athens on 4th Avenue in 1993. Top quality ingredients and classic cooking techniques placed the restaurant in New York’s City Magazine’s top 100 restaurants in the United States.