Giving Thanks to Those Who Came Before: Recognizing Two Decades of Local Food Game Changers and Influencers

By Natalie Morris / Photography By Jon Arvizu | December 01, 2015
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Ten Valley Food Pioneers

It was roughly eight years ago that I contacted the general email account that belongs to Slow Food Phoenix at the encouragement of then Quiessence Restaurant chef Greg LaPrad. After a few weeks of annoying pestering from me about finding our food’s sources, he had steered me in the direction of what would later become my tribe.

I remember feeling a sense of anticipation as I composed what I would say. “Could this be it?” I wondered. “Might I have stumbled upon a group of people who would feel the same pride in building a local food culture that I do?”

Unbeknownst to me at the time, there were already many pioneers who had laid the groundwork for our Valley local food scene. Our food community is rooted in the collaborative efforts put forth by these passionate, steadfast people who paved the way. These are the players who have shifted the Phoenix food paradigm and changed our food culture (and continue to do so).

The following honor roll is a little dedication to them in recognition of Edible Phoenix’s 10th anniversary. Some are household names; others prefer to avoid the limelight. Most are located in the Valley and/or have strong ties. All are deserving of our thanks.

Note: Given the limited space, we had to make many difficult decisions on who to include and it’s inevitable that we’ve missed someone. Let us know who else you think should be added.

The Pioneers: 1980-1999

1983: Gary Paul Nabhan
author, food activist, chair in sustainable agriculture Co-founds Native Seeds/SEARCH, later writes Coming Home to Eat

1988: Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco and Pane Bianco
Establishes original location at Town and Country Shopping Center

1990: Dee Logan
Arizona Community Farmers Markets Launches first of over 15 markets at Roadrunner Park

1991: Kent Callaghan
Callaghan Vineyards Produces first vintage; wines served at the White House in following years

1993: Chrysa Robertson
Rancho Pinot Serves local food long before it’s trendy, goes on to found Slow Food Phoenix

1995: David Vose
Blue Sky Organic Farms Establishes an organic farm in Litchfield Park

1999: Barbara Fenzl
Les Gourmettes Cooking School Hosts PBS series “Savor the Southwest”

1999: Frank Martin
Crooked Sky Farms Starts a farm and sells at a market in Northern AZ; later offers CSA

1999: Howard Seftel
now retired Becomes the food critic for the Arizona Republic

1999: RoxSand Scocos McCreary
former chef-owner of RoxSand’s Wins James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest

The Settlers: 2000-2005

2000: Joe Johnston
Agritopia Launches a neighborhood built around a farm in Gilbert

2001: Robert McGrath
Roaring Fork Restaurant Wins James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest

2002: Cindy Gentry
founder of Community Food Connections Establishes Phoenix Public Market, one of the first in downtown Phoenix

2002: Deborah Knight
former chef/owner of Mosaic Restaurant Wins Food and Wine’s Best New Chef the same year the restaurant opens

2002: Silvana Salcido
Barrio Café Opens regional Mexican cuisine restaurant

2003: Eric Glomski
Page Springs Cellars Founds winery, supports other producers and later partners in Arizona Stronghold

2004: Mark Tarbell
Tarbell’s Restaurant Begins writing wine column for the Arizona Republic

2004: Kevin and Amy Binkley
Binkley’s Restaurant Group Opens flagship restaurant in Cave Creek, a four-time James Beard Award nominee

2005: Perry Rea
Queen Creek Olive Mill Expands the “shed” into a full agritourism operation

2005: Greg LaPrad
former chef at Quiessence and Overland Trout Assumes the helm at the Farm at South Mountain’s farm-to-table restaurant

The Catalysts: 2006-2009

2006: Pamela Hamilton
Edible Phoenix Debuts first local Farmer+Chef Connection event

2006: Todd and Kelly Bostock
Dos Cabezas Wineworks Purchases the winery from AZ wine pioneer Al Buhl

2007: Barbara Colleary
C-CAP Arizona Retires after 15 years of dedicated service

2007: Sam Pillsbury
Pillsbury Wine Company Starts the winery after transitioning from Dos Cabezas Wineworks

2007: James and Wendy Porter
formerly chef/owners of Tapino Kitchen and Wine Bar Holds first Locavore dinners in greater Phoenix

2008: Maya Dailey
Maya’s Farm Receives Edible Phoenix Local Hero Award for first time, now in Hall of Fame

2008: Rhonni and Josh Moffitt
former owners AZ Vines and Wines Start magazine targeted to the Arizona wine industry

2009: Helen Yung and Jan Wichayanuparp
Sweet Republic Recognized among Bon Appétit’s Top 10 Best Ice Cream Shops

2009: Ray DelMuro
Refresh Glass Receives AZ Republic Top 35 Male Entrepreneurs Under 35 in AZ award

2009: Tracy Dempsey
Tracy Dempsey Originals Starts consulting with local chefs on inspiring dessert menus

The Architects: 2010-2015

2010: Dave Jordan
Two Wash Ranch Dave “The Egg Man” goes full-time raising eggs and chickens

2011: Charleen Badman and Pavle Milic
FnB Restaurant Expands and moves to current location at Kiva Center

2011: Emma and Jeff Zimmerman
Hayden Flour Mills Ignite heritage grain enthusiasm through family business Hayden Flour Mills

2011: Kenny Barrett
Roosevelt Growhouse Initiates Valley of the Sunflowers with BioScience High School students

2012: Dominic Armato
Phoenix Food Nerds (now Arizona Republic) Pitches at Ignite Food and launches food forum Phoenix Food Nerds

2012: Jason Raducha and Claudio Urciuoli
Noble Bread Debuts artisan bread made from heritage grains with a mobile wood-fired oven

2014: Jonathan Buford and partners
AZ Wilderness Brewing Co. Named Best Microbrewery in the World by Esquire

2014: Rodney Hu and partners
AZ Distilling Co. Desert Durum Wheat Whiskey wins Silver Medal at Great American Distillers Festival

2014: Kimber Lanning and Rachel Morningstar
Local First Arizona Foundation Adopt statewide local foods directory Good Food Finder AZ

2014: Greg Peterson
Urban Farm U Partners to create the latest incarnation of the Urban Farm permaculture movement

A Dozen to Watch: 2016 and Beyond

These are the up-and-comers we’ll be talking about on our 20th anniversary.

Andrew Gooi, Food Talkies
Bo Mostow, Uptown Farmers Market
Erich and Yvonne Schultz, Steadfast Farm at Agritopia
Jeff Kraus, Crepe Bar
Jill Smith, C-CAP Arizona
Maynard Keenan, Four Eight Wineworks
Rob and Sarah Hammelman, Sand Reckoner Vineyards
Robbie Tutlewski and Tony Andiario, The Bianco Group
Sasha Levine, Ocotillo Restaurant
Stephen Jones, DeSoto Central Market
Steve McFate, Fate Brewing Co.
Timothy Olorunfemi and colleagues, New Roots Program at IRC

An American child raised on Dutch-Indonesian food, Natalie Rachel Morris is now a classically trained culinarian with a masters of arts in food culture and communications. As a W.K. Kellogg Foundation–endowed fellow, she founded the award-winning initiative Good Food Finder and is now the local foods coordinator at Local First Arizona.

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