Arizona’s four nominees for the 2020 James Beard Awards.

Excitement in Arizona’s restaurant industry was high this week despite current events as The James Beard Foundation announced this week the finalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards. When semifinalists were announced earlier in the year and before the coronavirus epidemic Arizona had 10 in the running to be finalists. When the winners are announced on September 25th, 4 nominees will be representing Arizona.

After FnB’s Charleen Badman won the 2019 Best Chef: Southwest it should come as no surprise to many that 3 others have the chance to bring home the award this year.

The 2020 nominees are….

Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe (Phoenix) for Best Chef: Southwest.

Chrysa Robertson of Rancho Pinot Grille (Scottsdale) for Best Chef: Southwest.

Jeff Smedstad of Elote Cafe (Sedona) for Best Chef: Southwest.

Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix) for Outstanding Restaurant.

Good luck to all.

Winners will be announced via the foundations Twitter feed.

 

Pop Up Dinner as James Beard Foundation returns to Phoenix

A few months after The James Beard Foundation’s “Taste America” tour made a stop in Phoenix, they’re returning in 2020. Wednesday, February 26th a Phoenix Pop Up Dinner at the Wrigley Mansion will be hosted by Chef Christopher Gross as he welcomes Taste America Visiting All- Star Chef Kristen Kish. The two chefs will create a menu full of diverse flavors and cuisines that are found in American cooking. This is the tours seventh visit to Phoenix over the years showing their commitment to our food and restaurant community.

The “Taste America” tour is how the foundation helps to bring better food for all through fundraising and discussion of food related issues. The non-profits “Good Food for Good” platform focuses on food waste reduction, sustainability, inclusivity and chef advocacy. 20 cities are on the 2019/20 tour that lasts almost a year with Capital One partnering with the foundation.

Tickets for the Pop Up dinner start at $225. Want a more exclusive experience, a private dining room is available for $500 and an “in kitchen” dinner is $1,000. I’ve seen the new kitchen and it’s very impressive. For more information about the evening and to purchase tickets head to the foundations website.

 

James Beard Foundation’s “Taste America” stops in Phoenix

Phoenix is on the map of the James Beard Foundation hot off the recent win by FnB’s Charleen Badman’s for “Best Chef: Southwest”. It’s also on the map for the foundations “Taste America” tour scheduled for September 19th- 21st. Phoenix is one of 20 cities chosen to host the event.

Tickets went on sale this week for the three day event for the cross country culinary experience.

Photos courtesy of Rose Moser Ally PR

Taste America events

The weekend kicks off on Thursday September 19th with the “Raising the Bar” walk around reception at Seventh and Union. Guests will meet rising star chefs and mixologists while sipping on cocktails and tasting culinary creations. Kyla Dahl of Pigtails Cocktail Bar, Henry Whittaker of Century Grand and Matt Steward of Undertow are a few of the mixologists pouring cocktails.

Dom Ruggiero of Hush Public House, Juan Zamora of Chula Seafood and Tamara Stanger of Cotton & Copper along with others will show off their culinary talents.

Friday night is the “Gala Benefit Dinner” at The Royal Palms Resort & Spa. The cocktail and tasting reception starts at 7 p.m. with tastes created by local chefs Stephen Jones of The Larder & Delta, Cat Bunnag of Glai Baan and others. Guests will then be treated to a three- course dinner menu created by visiting chef Tiffany Derry of Plano’s Roots Chicken Shack, local all-star Danielle Leoni of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar and host chef Alexander Robinson.

A dessert reception with Danielle O’Day of Sweet Dee’s Bakeshop and Hollie Layman-Sanders of The Royal Palms ends the night.

A silent and live auction will be held during the evening. A portion of the proceeds from dinner and auctions will go to the foundations scholarship programs.

The weekend concludes with the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Program, Owning It. The workshop will bring together 60 women who are in the idea or growth phase of a food related business. A few women will pitch local investors for funding for their project and all will learn how to advance in the culinary industry.

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Goodyear chefs compete in the James Beard Blended Burger battle

Despite National Hamburger month ending in May, two west valley chefs are just getting started as they compete in the James Beard Blended Burger battle. Goodyear restaurants Eagle’s Nest and Toscana’s Restaurant are rolling up their sleeves representing two of the three Arizona restaurants in the competition. They will be trying to create the winning burger using 2 types of mushrooms as ingredients.

Hail Mary burger

Chef Mary Ahern of Eagle’s Nest see’s her Hail Mary burger as the eventual winner. This 17 ingredient burger blends Portobello and button mushrooms, roasted garlic, thyme and shallots ground with the brisket and jalapeños, garlic and bacon mixed with ground beef.

The burger is then topped with bacon jam, lettuce, house made pickles, red onion, devil dog sauce and slices of American and Havarti cheese all between a Brioche bun. That sounds like more than a mouthful and  like a winner to me.

Toscana’s burger

Eagle’s Nest’s neighbor in the Pebble Creek community Toscana’s Restaurant is building a blended burger of their own.

It will be pan seared with 80/20 ground beef, house smoked mesquite button mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, caramelized onions, shaved lettuce, fresh watercress, apple-wood bacon, aged smoked cheddar cheese, house-made cowboy candy and mayo.

All served between a King’s Hawaiian bun, hope it can handle everything

Another delicious sounding burger and I’m very curious about the cowboy candy.

James Beard Blended Burger battle voting

Online voting ends July 31st with the top 5 winners from around the country competing in the final showdown of the James Beard Blended Burger challenge in New York city in January. To cast your vote you may vote here.