Chef de jour: Maria Mazon, Boca Tacos y Tequila
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Chef de Tucson: Maria Mazon

Chef de jour: Maria Mazon, Boca Tacos y Tequila

IF you go Boca Tacos y Tequila, 828 E. Speedway, 777-8134,

Tacos de Rajas 5 each anaheim and poblano peppers, roast them then let them sweat inside a plastic bag (roast peppers by lightly oiling them and cooking over grill or on stove top), then peel, clean and slice 2 tablespoons butter 1 grilled corn (shucked) ½ white onion (chopped) Salt pepper and garlic to taste 1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk ½ cup of cheese (monterey jack will do) Melt the butter in a pot. Add the roasted, peeled and cleaned peppers and all other ingredients to the pot. Set over low heat and let simmer for five minutes. Can use as taco stuffing, on a tortilla or as a side dish. Maria Mazon

Chef Maria Mazon lives in a state of flux, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not that she has a choice.

With a menu that features 26 tacos, daily specials, a changing lineup of a half dozen salsas and what she calls Exotic Taco Wednesday (kangaroo tacos, anyone?) Mazon must keep innovating. It is what her customers have come to expect from the 6-year-old midtown eatery, Boca Tacos y Tequila.

Mazon was born in Tucson and raised in Navojoa, Sonora. She returned to Tucson to attend high school, then studied nutrition at Pima Community College.

While a student, she got a job as a server at a Foothills Mexican restaurant. The owners let her create some of the weekend specials, and they let her use their kitchen to start her own catering company.

“It was one of the most beautiful mistakes I ever made,” she said. “I was just reading, watching TV. I was into … Food Network shows back then. And then you just realize you are good at something and just continue doing it enough and you get comfortable with knives and other toys and educate yourself.”

Her eclectic pairings have proven popular with customers who come back time and again to find out what she will combine next.

A recent taco featured strawberry, peanut butter and chile morita salsa. Another taco on the menu features cabbage, hash browns, a fried egg and basil-cilantro crema. Her chile relleno is stuffed with goat cheese and mascarpone, topped with tomato salsa. And a recent special featured beef tenderloin crusted with Mexican chocolate and chipotle on a bed of cauliflower and green pea mash.

“Right now I’m on a green olive kick,” Mazon said. “I did a habanero salsa with a splash of balsamic and sesame oil.

“People think because it’s tacos it’s supposed to be fast food, but it’s a restaurant that serves gourmet tacos. I am celebrating the Mexican cuisine. I play with flavors nobody will put together,” she said.

Where did you get the name for your restaurant, Boca Tacos y Tequila?

A: “We have a beach in Navojoa called Las Bocas, and I wanted to pay an homage to my hometown.”

Why tacos?

A: “My goal in life is to refine Mexican cuisine and not Mexican food. They are different beasts. Yellow cheese, sour cream and a taco salad, that’s what sells in the states. Sombreros and mariachi. But when you go to Mexico, we don’t have sombreros hanging from the ceilings and serape-wearing. Mexico has a lot to offer in flavors, colors. Deep rich flavor. So, that’s what I am trying to do.”

What is your favorite ingredient?

A: “I like fresh herbs. Give me a fresh herb, and I will try to make you something awesome. Everything you have to treat like a favorite ingredient when you use it. I like to play with stuff I’ve never cooked with before.”

What about cooking do you love the most?

A: “Being creative and — it’s going to sound wrong — but doing whatever the hell I want and it coming out awesome. I have never followed a recipe in my life. Ever. Challenging certain flavors you think are going to come through. My favorite thing in the world is to come to Boca early in the morning when no one is there, the place is still cold because nothing is on, turn the music on, have food in my hands and develop new flavors and combinations and tacos.

“Cooking has been a ride. I enjoy what I do. I really do. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel, but there’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no crying in the restaurant business. It’s really tough.”

Kimberly Matas is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact her at

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