For over 30 years, Chef Janos Wilder’s respect for local ingredients has been integrated into his culinary creations.
After moving to the Southwest in 1983, Wilder quickly discovered the beauty of native and locally grown ingredients. The pairing of chilies, beans, squash and cilantro with Chef Wilder’s culinary talents and experience made him a trendsetter and an originator of Southwest cuisine.
Chef Wilder helped create a very modern menu based on Native American produce grown on the Gila River for KAI restaurant, located at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. He also opened three restaurants in Tucson – Janos, JBAR and most recently, DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails. His first menu concept for DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails was to reach out to Tucson’s farmers and gardeners and integrate locally grown food. As part of his passion for local food and cooking, he partnered with Children’s Museum Tucson to teach children within the community about healthy eating and understand the source of their food.
The Andra Dalrymple garden was built earlier this year at the Museum. Andra, a 12-year-old girl who passed away due to a congenital heart failure, used to visit the Museum and provide DOWNTOWN with fresh ingredients for a special pasta dish.
Today, one dollar from each purchase of the special pasta dish, made with in-season produce from the Museum’s garden, goes to the Children’s Museum’s Henninger Fund. The Fund helps provide free Museum memberships to families in need or children with special needs. “With the garden, children are able to see where their food comes from and hopefully make healthier choices,” said Chef Wilder.
Throughout his career, Wilder has become a leading proponent of the exploration and use of indigenous ingredients while blending traditional and modern techniques. Through his work on the Board of Directors of Native Seeds/SEARCH, he assists in the effort to preserve the use and knowledge of heirloom seeds and integrating the agriculture into culinary cuisine.
In 2000, the James Beard Foundation named Wilder as the top chef in the Southwest. He has also authored two books, Janos: Recipes and Tales from a Southwest Restaurant (1990) and The Great Chiles Rellenos Cookbook (2008).
Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails
135 S. 6th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85701