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Meet the chef: Joseph Barbeau, On A Roll

Army brat’s career marches on its stomach

Joseph Barbeau was working in Phoenix when On A Roll's owners hired him.

Joseph Barbeau was working in Phoenix when On A Roll's owners hired him.

Address and phone: 63 E. Congress St., 622-7655

Joseph Barbeau is head sushi chef at On A Roll Sushi Bar & Restaurant, which opened in late September.

A self-described “Army brat,” Barbeau was born in South Korea, and his family lived in several countries before his father retired in Tucson.

Barbeau, 26, started working in the restaurant business before he graduated from Rincon High School – first at a fast-food restaurant then at Takamatsu, 5532 E. Speedway Blvd.

After about a year at Takamatsu, Barbeau worked as a sushi chef at both Yuki Sushi locations for two years, then spent seven years at several sushi bars in the Phoenix area. It was there he met Dominic and Teresa Moreno, the owners of On A Roll, who hired him.

“I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of amazing guys over the last 10 years, and I always asked a lot of questions to learn as much as I could,” he says.

Question: What’s your favorite restaurant in Tucson?

Answer: I really like Wings and Rice; it’s owned by a Korean guy. . . . They have really good Korean fried rice, and I don’t know how they do their wings, but they’re really great.

What’s your favorite dish to prepare and why?

Anything I make up for a special. I like to do a lot of rare dishes with different combinations.

What’s your favorite dish to eat?

That would have to be tuna. The quality goes from yellow fin to big eye to blue fin, which is the best.

What’s unique about the Tucson restaurant scene compared to other cities?

I would say how everybody knows each other and supports each other. All the other downtown restaurants around here have really supported us since we opened.

What’s your favorite or most used gadget or kitchen utensil?

I love my sashimi knife. It’s made of Japanese steel, and it’s superstrong and supersharp.

What do you always have in your refrigerator?

I used to have nothing except water, but I just moved in with a roommate who actually has some stuff. But my breakfast, lunch and dinner revolve around this restaurant, because I’m here – open to close – six days a week.

Why are you a chef?

For the love of it. I love to cut fish. I love to sauce plates. I love to make new tastes. Sushi-making is a unique skill, and I really enjoy using that skill and coming up with new fusions.

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