Tucson's status as a City of Gastronomy could be paying off

Published: Aug. 3, 2016 at 9:23 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2016 at 11:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson's designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy last year seems to be paying the dividends the city had hoped for.

Tucson is the only city in the United States with the distinction. Eight other cities have the designation worldwide. 

While the estimates on how much the designation has helped the tourism economy and the economy in general are not yet known, early indications are it could be substantial. 

Foodies, food publications and food tourists have become interested in Tucson. Free publicity is one way to measure.

"Last year for culinary, July to July, we had $6 million in coverage," said Dan Gibson, a communications specialist for Visit Tucson. "The year before we didn't have $6 million in coverage, period."

And he expects to increase this year. 

To help capitalize on the designation, Tucson city leaders will pass Resolution 22614 next week designating "the best 23 miles of Mexican food" to be in the city of Tucson.

While many city's argue they have the best, the Gastronomy designation gives Tucson some heft.

"It's one thing for us to talk about something," said Gibson. "But when they see it in the New York Times, a Food Network publication, or in the UK, in the Guardian, their biggest publication, it really does say that's notable."

David Matias, the executive chef at Teresa's Mosaic Cafe on Tucson's west side, says that kind of pressure makes them do a better job.

"There's so many options here in Tucson for Mexican food and we're so close to the border, I think we have to do our best," Matias said. "There's so many options you can do somewhere else if you don't like it."

According to Matias there is added pressure because the restaurant has appeared on national television and in many national publications, but the biggest pressure comes from his repeat customers. 

"When you have Mexican people who live in Mexico, eat Mexican food, come to your restaurant and say you have great Mexican food, it's nice to hear that," he said.

And even more verification that the "23 miles of the best Mexican food in the United States" is well deserved.

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