LON’S AT THE HERMOSA INN
For Executive Chef James Ducas, his love of cooking started at a young age. With humble beginnings as a dishwasher in New York at the age of 14, it was the atmosphere, tastes and aroma coming from the rich culinary scene that enticed him to his chosen career path. From that point forward, his dedication, ambition and passion for food allowed him to rise the culinary ranks, and now hold the title of Executive Chef of The Hermosa Inn’s two restaurants, LON’s at the Hermosa and Last Drop at the Hermosa.
The Art of the Journey
From washing dishes at age 14 to creating his own menus as Executive Chef, Ducas’ culinary journey is one of great dedication and displays the love he has for his craft. Without any traditional schooling – simply by learning from culinary greats – Ducas honed his skills in the kitchen, worked his way up the culinary ladder and in 2000 left New York to become executive chef of Pacific Café in Asheville, North Carolina. Shortly thereafter in 2003 he became a partner and executive chef at Savoy in Asheville, North Carolina, followed by his move to Arizona, when he started working for The Hermosa Inn in 2007.
After working under the tutelage of two high profile chefs, Ducas took the culinary spotlight as executive chef in 2013 and has been taking the resort’s artful American cuisine to a new level, with his bold ideas, unique flavor profiles and cutting edge techniques.
“The most inspiring things for me are having new seasonality of ingredients, farm fresh products and fresh cuts of meat,” said Ducas. “New produce, especially from our garden, brings what we do in the kitchen to another level because our culinary team is able to have a deeper connection to the food we serve when the ingredients they planted are now being harvested to use on the menu.”
When not in the kitchen and dreaming up the next tasting menu, Ducas can be found camping, fishing and enjoying the outdoors, alongside his two German shepherds.
The Art of the Farm
Leading two restaurants that pride themselves on farm-to-table philosophies and “artful” cuisine, it’s only natural that a part of Chef Ducas’ day-to-day involves not only working in the half-acre garden located just outside the kitchen, but using it as a training ground for his culinary team.
Based on what’s seasonal, and what’s trending, Ducas carefully selects, plants and harvests a variety of products, including lettuce, pumpkins, arugula, basil, coriander, fennel, onions, peppermint, chiles, strawberries, English lavender, baby oak leaf, Bloomsdale spinach, mesclun, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos, and various types of squash and melon – to name a few. This is in addition to the lemon, orange and grapefruit trees that are scattered throughout the property and provide fruit used in many dishes at LON’s and in signature cocktails from the Last Drop at the Hermosa.
Beyond the on-property garden, 80% of the produce used in the kitchen is Arizona grown. The resort’s coffee is from a local shop called The Roastery in Cave Creek, the iced tea is from China Mist of Scottsdale, a variety of Arizona wines are featured in the wine cellar, goat cheese is purchased from Crow’s Dairy in Buckeye and other products are sourced locally from McClendon Select Organics and Duncan Family Farms.
The Art of the Meal
With such a unique, historical property as his day-to-day setting, it’s the artful ambiance – and original work of Alonzo “Lon” Megargee, cowboy artist and builder of the original Hermosa Inn in the 1930’s, that adorns the restaurants’ walls – which inspire him to prepare an equally artful menu.
By using farm-fresh ingredients as a base, Ducas ensures each ingredient is highlighted while still complementing the next. Each dish then becomes more than just a meal, but an artful presentation.
From braised beef short ribs made with local heirloom polenta, cauliflower and roasted maitake mushrooms, to roasted salmon complemented with creamed turnips, salsify, asparagus, onion froth and an “everything salmon crisp,” the main dishes all the way to the appetizers and salads are skillfully prepared. A carrot mushroom salad and pumpkin soup with foie gras biscuits are items you will see on Ducas’ menu, along with modern takes on classic desserts, such as the chocolate torte with popcorn ice cream and LON’s famous cowboy candy bar.
“Art has become more than just a cultural cornerstone of our property,” said Ducas. “It’s our origin, our history and something we incorporate into everything we do – from our Artist in Residence series and on-property art installment to the way our food is plated. For our guests, it’s a part of what makes The Hermosa Inn such a unique experience and special place.”