Mr. Cookman’s

Jonathan Hebert poses with his Mr. Cookman’s food truck. Hebert travels Tucson to bring his version of Louisiana barbecue to Tucson.

You’ve been hearing from me every week for more than three years now, and this is the one week of the year when everybody gets to hear from you.

What stories from the past year did you find most fascinating from the local culinary and cocktail scene?

What columns did you enthusiastically post, recommend, and share across your social media platforms?

I conducted some exhaustive digital data analysis to identify the top 10 columns of 2015, ranked by my readers’ online activity, and am pleased to reveal the results.

Coming in at the number 10 spot was my story about a guy whose Philadelphia-style soft pretzels have attracted an impressive following. His story was just twisted enough to land him on this year’s top ten list.

My breaking news about NBC’s Savannah Guthrie’s revelation that she’d never tasted a Moscow Mule caused shockwaves across the local cocktail community. She’ll have plenty to choose from on her next visit to Tucson, and this story, coming in at number nine, should be her guide. 

We had a tie for the eighth spot, between my story about liquors that are endorsed by celebrities and the one about how a local restaurant is keeping its guests warm during the winter months. The tie forced a recount. The tie stands.

My story about a purveyor of local honey whose seasonal honey flights have really taken off created enough buzz to land it at number seven. Suffice it to say that he’s been busy as a bee since this story broke.

The idea of pairing premium wines with certain comfort foods found favor among many of my readers. Whether it was the Viognier and Velveeta or Malbec and Meatloaf, your online activity around this story produced a ranking of number six.

Global influences on a local gastropub inspired many of you to engage with this story online. The flavors of Africa, Japan, Greece, and other regions of the globe can be found at one Oro Valley eatery, and this story found itself at the number five spot.

How do you excite fans of craft cocktails in new flavorful ways? Believe it or not, it’s all about balsamic vinegar these days, and my sweet and seductive story about balsamic beverages stirred up enough activity to get it to number four.

While some of you thought that pork fat would be a fad, my story about a local chef whose creative applications for leftover bacon fat sizzled online. It takes a lot of engagements to earn the number three rank, and this story really turned up the heat.

I wrote a story last summer about my personal reflections on ramen and how a Tucson chef has re-imagined the dish by breaking some ramen rules. It created enough slurping and sharing to take it to the number two spot.

And then there was one.

He was born and raised in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, and my story about this local pit master and his Louisiana barbeque food truck must have made Tucson’s collective mouth water. It ran away with the coveted number one ranking and has been smoking ever since.

I embarked on this journey three years ago to tell the stories of individuals who are bringing the art of the possible to their craft, those who share a passion for how something on a plate, or in a glass, can actually start a conversation on its own.

It’s been a delicious conversation indeed, and I look forward to the next chapter in 2016.


Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 4 to 5 p.m. Saturdays on KEVT Power Talk 1210-AM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030-AM.