James Beard Foundation Taste of America Phoenix

The James Beard Foundation kicked off its culinary tour called Taste America in Phoenix on September 20 – 22, 2017.  This 10-city tour brings together chefs with foodies for a series of events celebrating James Beard and the mission of the Foundation, which is to “celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.”  A portion of each ticket sale for Taste America goes the Taste America Scholarship Fund, which helps aspiring chefs attend culinary school.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, it was a fun-filled 3 days of foodie glamour that started with a viewing of a documentary about James Beard and was capped by a tasting dinner catered by 10 of the city’s hottest chefs.

On Wednesday, September 20 was the showing of the Emmy nominated PBS American Masters episode, “James Beard: America’s First Foodie”.  The evening started with sodas and gourmet popcorn while watching the 60 minute documentary, followed by a Q&A emceed by the Valley’s own Mark Tarbell, gifted chef, restaurateur and host of Check Please! Arizona, along with the co-producer of the film, Kathleen Squires, Taste of America event producer, David Brown, and Honorary Chair of Taste America Phoenix, Bill Nassikas.  This event was $25 a ticket and included a tasting of wines from the Wagner Family of wines, as well as BBQ sliders from Fitzgerald BBQ.  Read more about this documentary on the fascinating James Beard here.

One of the most popular events of Taste America Phoenix was the Welcome Reception on Thursday, September 21 hosted by Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts (FRC), James Beard nominee for “Outstanding Restaurateur”, at Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend on 7th Street.  Featuring hors d’oeuvres, desserts and drinks from five of FRC restaurants, The Henry, Culinary Dropout, Little Cleo’s, The Arrogant Butcher and Blanco’s Tacos, the Welcome Reception sets a tasty stage for the gastronomic weekend.  And at $75 a ticket, it is a steal.

At the JBF Taste of America Phoenix Welcome Reception…which cocktail to choose?

Lamb Sloppy Joe with Harissa, Labneh, Za’atar Brioche Bun from The Arrogant Butcher.

The main event was the Night of Culinary Stars Benefit Dinner on Friday, September 22 at the new Mountain Shadows Resort.  All-star chef and multiple James Beard award winner, Traci des Jardins of Jardinière in San Francisco, headlined the evening with a supporting staff of some of the Valley’s greatest chefs.  Guests were treated to a cocktail reception catered by Aaron Chamberlin (St. Francis/Phoenix Public Market Cafe), Beau MacMillan (elements at the Sanctuary), Lori Hashimoto (Hana Japanese Eatery), Dustin Christofolo (Quiessence at South Mountain), and Branden Levine (Sel). Once the cocktail hour and silent auction concluded, guests were ushered into the ballroom where we dined on an exquisite three course menu designed by Traci des Jardins with help from Chuck Wiley (Hearth ’61 at Mountain Shadows) and Nobuo Fukuda (Nobuo at Teeter House).  If that weren’t enough, the grand finale was dessert catered by Tammie Coe and Country Velador outside under a shower of fireworks in the Arizona fall sky.

I was honored to be asked to be on the steering committee for the benefit.  I am guessing that it meant I was to steer my friends to the dinner.  For those of you that had a football game to attend, here is what you missed out on.  There is a rumor circulating that maybe next year the venue will be moved to Santa Fe.  Let’s all pray that is not the case!  Happy eating everyone! xoM

Aaron Chamberlin’s White Gazpacho with Arizona Grapes, Toasted Almonds, Prickly Pear, and Olive Oil Croutons.

The presentation of Nobuo Fukuda’s Fish ‘n Chips Nanbanzuke was breathtaking. Potato Starch-Fried Cod was marinated in an Orange Juice-Soy Vinaigrette and served in a Fried Karei, which is a Japanese flounder.

Country Velador’s Spiced Chocolate Layer Cake with Zak’s Madagascar Chocolate Crémeux, Black Cocoa Crumble, Black Currant Coulis, and Hazelnut Praline Butter.

While I did not bid on this fabulous magnum of Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle, I did “win” a dinner at the James Beard House in NYC!!! So excited, so stay tuned…


All photos and opinions by Marci Symington for texAZtaste.com.  This is NOT a sponsored post, nor was I compensated for any part of the JBF Taste of America Phoenix…I just like what I like, and I have the waist line to prove it.  

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  • Ann Symington

    “I have the waist line to prove it…” NOT!!!

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