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JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa

3800 W. Starr Pass Boulevard · Tucson, Arizona 85745 US


Chef & Staff Profiles

Meet our Executive Sous Chef, Owen Williams. Owen is the newest member of the JW Marriott Starr Pass culinary team and has had a love for the culinary arts from an early age.

David Fransua, Executive Chef

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort's newest Executive Chef, David Fransua, took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us for a quick Q&A. During his 17 year career with Marriott, he has worked for multiple award winning properties, and he doesn't see that changing anytime soon. Beginning as a line cook and working his way up to Executive Chef, he is excited to start his journey here with us at Starr Pass.

Originally from Denver, David encountered both-the bustling city scenic mountain areas of Colorado. Growing up with a French father and a Mexican mother, he experienced a mixture of cultures and food variety from an early age. His first memory of cooking came from his father making him eggs for breakfast, where he discovered it was quite different from the way his mom made them. (His mother made them scrambled well done; whereas his father's eggs were runny.) As this was not a pleasant experience, eight year old David struck a deal with his father. Since he was grounded at the time, he agreed to eat the eggs if he was allowed to go out and play. Today, David now cooks eggs for his children, just the way his father made for him; runny. He gives credit to his father for giving him the creativity and tenacity that he embodies in the kitchen today.

David is unique from many of his peers in the field today in that he received all of his training on the job, as opposed to Culinary School. "The Kitchen is your class room, you can learn more here than they can ever teach you in school". At a time in his life when he was struggling with the decision of whether or not he was to attend Culinary school, he recalls being at a Chinese restaurant with his now, wife. As money was tight, the dream of Culinary School was not looking realistic. As if it were fate, he then opened his fortune cookie which stated: Discipline is a refinement fire, in which ability becomes talent. David and his wife took this as a sign that he would need to create his own success through experience, as opposed to traditional training in a classroom. He is an inspiration to many young cooks in the business, symbolizing that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

We are excited to announce David as our new Executive Chef at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, and look forward to what he can bring to both our Resort, and the Tucson community.

What is your favorite meal?

"My mom's chicken mole and Mexican rice. This meal might not be the most appetizing dish, but has always been a meal served during special occasions and it is something I fondly associate with my family celebrations."

What is the most essential kitchen Item?

"Salt. It can make or break a dish. You have to know when and when not to use it"

If you were a protein?

"Pork Belly. Pork belly is really cool right now, and I want to be cool."

Chris Johnson, Senior Pastry Chef

Chris found his way into the baking world a bit differently than most, as a young man graduating high school in Erie, Pennsylvania he didn't have the funds for college so he found himself joining the Air Force to earn some extra income. He would soon find himself in the baking department at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona and discovered he just had a "knack" for baking. He would go on to travel and serve in the pastry departments at Air Force bases from Belgium to Wyoming, all while receiving awards for his newly found talent along the way. Completing his four years of service and reflecting on his great time in Southern, Arizona, Chris ended up making the decision to return to Tucson to continue his culinary venture.His first civilian baker position began at Loews Ventena Canyon Resort where he remained for 16 years, eventually becoming their Executive Pastry Chef. Chris would ultimately find his home at JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and today leads their pastry team while still maintaining his ties to the community by teaching a baking class at Pima Community College in his spare time. He also has continued his education in international specialty classes in places as far as France & Canada. We thank Chris for his dedication to JW Marriott and value the high level of service he continues to bring to the team.

What is your specialty?

"I don't necessarily have a specialty, however I like to come up with unique things for our guests . For instance, if someone likes a snickers bar the team and I dissect those elements to create a dish that will maintain those same tasty ingredients.

What is your current favorite meal?

"Moms apple pie".

Crafted. Local. Authentic.

Chef Alex Sandroff is JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort's Senior Sous Chef. Alex joined us from The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. One of Alex's favorite things about moving to Tucson, Arizona is being able to get authentic tacos, and the abundance of warm weather. Alex completed his education with a degree in Culinary Arts and a Minor in Economics from UNLV. While he admits that he loves to cook, the math, science, and chemistry of the kitchen are what interest him the most. From asking why we do what we do in the kitchen, to menu engineering to dissecting food cost.

Alex was raised in St. Louis, Missouri and as a child he grew up with plenty of knowledge of the kitchen. His father, having worked in restaurants while attending dental school, showed him everything about how the kitchen worked and his mother would always prepare wonderful home cooked meals. At a young age his parents divorced; his step-mother would inspire him with flavorful, healthy cooking and step father would show him the dynamics of simple, good food. He bought his first knife in his early teens with money earned from mowing lawns and doing chores around the house. That knife has stayed in the mix to do this day and is now with his younger sister. At the age of 14, Alex was working at a local restaurant washing dishes and one night on a busy evening, the prep cook abandoned his job. After the cook left, the restaurant chef handed Alex his knife. That began his career cooking in the kitchen.

When we asked Alex what is the best advice he gives young cooks just starting out, Alex replied, "This industry is tough, you pay $60,000 plus for an education and start out making about $11.50 an hour; If you have no problem starting at the bottom and working your way up, grab an apron. You'll need to be willing to put in those 60 and 70 hours a week and most of all never stop asking for those learning opportunities."

Most essential kitchen item:

"Big pile of tasting spoons - if you're not tasting your food, you are not understanding how the food is evolving!"

If you were a protein:

"A link of Chorizo - it has all the elements of flavor and texture. Vinegar to dry your mouth, salt to make you salivate, a touch of bitter from the crispy skin, some natural sweetness from the pork. You get that crunchy hard seared exterior, the fat to keep the meat juicy, all around full range of experience. The next time you dine out, ask yourself this, ‘what does tasting feel like'."

Favorite quote:

"You're good when you know the rules, you're really good when you know how to break them." - Peter Smith, Executive Chef JW Marriott Desert Springs, Executive Sous Chef at JW Marriott San Antonio, where Alex started his career.


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