Call Matt Russell Tucson's gastronomical gabber.
Every Thursday, Russell celebrates the city's eclectic and ever-changing dining scene with a new episode of his radio program, "On the Menu ... Live," on The Jolt (1330-AM).
The hour-long show is divided into two parts. The first half covers a smattering of food news, from local promotions to wine-tasting announcements and restaurant openings.
Russell also has a "man-on-the-street" segment that he conducts when he is out and about.
The second half focuses on a particular Tucson chef, restaurateur or culinary figure.
Albert Hall of Acacia is a regular call-in guest and has even filled in as host. Vila Jarrell of Vila Thai Cuisine is another of Russell's favorites.
"Vila is such a wonderful, dynamic person," Russell said. "She can really work a room. She runs her place, but she is also there taking orders, telling stories. She is always a wonderful guest.
"The culinary characters in Southern Arizona all have unique traits and personalities that are often reflected in the restaurants they run."
Russell doesn't have a background in food. He has dedicated most of his life to public relations, including three years working exclusively for Dr. Andrew Weil. He runs Russell Public Communications from his east-side offices.
But entertainment is in his DNA, he says. His dad, Mark Russell, is a famous political satirist.
"We were always his first audience as kids," Matt recalled. "I can't remember him doing a show without first trying out his material on us."
And Matt honed his on-air skills as a child working car ads opposite "Today Show" staple Willard Scott. Scott was a radio personality in D.C. at the time.
In 2008, Russell returned to the mic when he was invited to co-host "On the Menu" — then called "The Z' Man's Restaurant Corner" — with restaurateur Alan Zeman, former owner of the popular Tucson spot, Fuego.
Zeman had already sold Fuego and was working as an industrial cookware and gourmet product salesman.
His busy schedule eventually forced him to give up the radio reins and Russell, 42, was invited to take over.
"I am an anomaly," Russell said. "I don't run a restaurant or a bar. I am just a guy in town that appreciates good food and wine, entertainment and hospitality.
"My vision of the show is to foster renewed enthusiasm for that unique Tucson culinary experience that people can only get here."
Russell said the program already had a strong following when he came on board. But he hopes to bring in even more listeners.
As producer and host, it is Russell's job to book guests, screen pitches and evaluate content.
"I want to make the most out of the 60 minutes of time our listeners put into us each week."
He also won't hesitate to give our culinary corner of the world a little national exposure.
He recently had the Food Network's Guy Fieri on as a phone-in guest, and he's trying to talk him into coming here for an episode of his show, "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."
"Let's face it," Russell said, "Tucson has a number of all three. There are plenty of restaurants that would be eligible."
Matt Russell's "On the Menu . . . Live" airs at 5 p.m. Thursdays on The Jolt (1330-AM).