Tucson City of Gastronomy Names New Certified Restaurants, Artisans, Retailers

The non-profit Tucson City of Gastronomy, which manages the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation for metro Tucson and its Southern Arizona foodshed, has selected its new cohort of Certified Restaurants and Artisans, and the first representatives of the new categories of Caterers and Retailers. Through an application process, 27 restaurants, 11 food and beverage artisans, nine food retailers, and three caterers were selected from among more than 60 applicants. These newly certified businesses join those already certified, expanding the program to 52 restaurants, 27 artisans, nine retailers and three caterers.  All are locally owned and independent businesses. 

TCoG certification recognizes and attracts customers to food businesses who are raising the bar by supporting the local food economy, preserving our food heritage, displaying sustainability leadership, and using community-minded business practices. Certified businesses are promoted by TCoG, Visit Tucson, Southern Arizona Heritage & Visitor Center, and Southern Arizona Attractions Alliance. They are also showcased through Sonoran Restaurant Week, Pueblos del Maíz, Tucson Cocktail Challenge, and  other annual events. This year, the Gastronomic Union of Tucson is partnering with TCoG to host their Knife Fight cooking competition at certified restaurants, where chefs will be challenged to use heritage ingredients and certified artisan products.

In order to be certified, food businesses excel in one or more goals of the program, including:

  • Supporting the local food economy by sourcing ingredients from southern Arizona producers, partnering with and mentoring other local businesses, and working with culinary program interns 
  • Using heritage ingredients, practicing traditional cooking methods, and serving traditional dishes
  • ​Supporting their employees by paying above the minimum wage; providing paid time off and health insurance; supporting their community by donating to food banks, soup kitchens, and women’s shelters; and hiring people facing obstacles to employment
  • Using sustainable practices by sourcing organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and fair-trade products, composting food waste, avoiding plastic and Styrofoam, recycling water, and ordering supplies in bulk

TCoG-certified businesses are located throughout metro Tucson and Southern Arizona, and include both well-recognized names and entrepreneurs just getting started. Many local favorites are now certified for the first time. Spanish-language outreach helped fill out these lists with stars that reflect Tucson’s diverse culinary sector.

“These are locally owned food businesses we want to recognize for setting examples we hope will be followed,” said Jonathan Mabry, TCoG executive director. “Certification also guides customers who want to vote with their wallets to support these unique businesses leading the way in our culinary economic sector, and attracts visitors to businesses representing our internationally recognized food cultures and flavors.”

TCoG Board President Janos Wilder sees the certifications as both a business driver and a badge of honor. He said, “Our certified restaurants, artisans, caterers, and retailers are the places locals and tourists will want to go to experience the flavors of Tucson. In doing so, they will be supporting businesses that not only work with local and heritage foods but whose sustainable practices and employee policies make them industry leaders.” 

With the only certification program among the 49 UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy around the world, Tucson is a model within the wider UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The next certification cycle will be announced this fall, and the program may expand to include additional categories.


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