Garlic easily claims rock-star status in the culinary world.
A centuries-old ingredient used for everything from appeasing Egyptian pyramid workers to treating a host of ailments, garlic is arguably the coveted flavor behind everything delicious. Chef Steven Schultz gets that.
His Wild Garlic Grill, which he opened in 2012 with his wife Maudi Gourdin, is the former Iron Chef Tucson competitor’s newest venture into the city’s thriving restaurant scene. “I’ve always had a passion for garlic and was adamant about including it in most of my cuisine,” he said. “My hope has always been to show people that while garlic is potent, it can be subtle and complementary.”
A Sahuaro High School alum, Schultz trained in France, Switzerland and Austria and received an advanced diploma from Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. He has held numerous executive chef and sous-chef positions in Carmel Valley, California, Scottsdale and Tucson, including the now-closed Ventana Room at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort when it was ranked nationally by Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Schultz opened Red Sky Café in 2000 in a modest office complex and developed a cult following. In 2011, he competed for the Iron Chef Tucson title.
Red Sky closed in 2012 and Wild Garlic Grill is his next culinary chapter. Here, in what was a 1950s-style drive-in restaurant at 2530 N. First Ave., Schultz pairs Gilroy garlic and California fresh produce with high-quality ingredients for a comprehensive menu that spans seafood to hamburgers to salads.
Gourdin, a longtime Tucson hair stylist, handles the bones of the restaurant — the décor, administration, networking and event planning.
“Our idea was to have a fun, casual garlic-themed restaurant with exquisite food,” Schultz said.
Where do you find your inspiration?
“I find most of my inspiration from my time working with talented chefs in Europe and my tenure in California. I love wine country, especially Gilroy (California), where they host a phenomenal garlic festival annually.”
What goes best with garlic? Is there a magical combination?
“I love garlic because of its versatility. Garlic pairs extremely well with extra virgin olive oil, white or red wine, tomatoes, fresh herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme. This combination of ingredients generally pairs well with most food.”
What is special about Gilroy garlic?
“It is usually an heirloom variety of high quality and sublime taste.”
Your menu prices are reasonable ($7 — $21.95). Was that important to you as you opened Wild Garlic Grill?
“We wanted to appeal to a number of different demographics throughout Tucson. Everyone should be able to enjoy a fantastic meal at a reasonable price.”
Do even your hamburgers have a hint of garlic in them?
“Our hamburgers have just the right amount of garlic.”