Creative hands often find themselves bound for some newer incarnation of New York City, be it Portland, Denver, or an unclaimed corner of Austin, Texas. But next week, five local chefs and one Scottish bartender will show you exactly why, when it comes to the culinary arts, Phoenix is the preferred destination for some of the most creative minds in the industry.
The 2015 Ripe Awards, to be held this Saturday evening at the Phoenix Art Museum, will honor local chefs for their edible feats and unmistakable contributions to the Arizona culinary scene. For the first time since the awards were created, the public was invited to submit nominations for their favorite culinary artists, which were then reviewed by judges from the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Art Museum and Men’s Arts Council.
The explosive growth of downtown Phoenix, coupled with a local community that wants the diverse food options to match their growing city, has caught the attention of talented entrepreneurial chefs from around the world, and resulted in the eclectic range of food options we currently enjoy. And according to award recipient Stephen Jones, it’s never been a better time to be cooking in Phoenix.
“In the 8 years that I’ve been here, right now it’s at all time high … with some of the local chefs doing their own thing,” he said.
Chef Stephen’s impact on downtown can be felt the moment you walk into the DeSoto Central Market, where he not only heads up yard bird + the larder, but also manages the menus for DCM Burger, Walrus & the Pearl, and Tea & Toast Co.
After coming to Phoenix for love, he stayed for the food. And after getting familiar with the local food industry and meeting a few influential chefs, he saw the potential and decided to stay.
“And for the golfing. I love to golf,” he added.
Chef Stephen will be joined by local chefs who are making a name for themselves with dishes your palette will recall fondly.
Chef Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery, Chef Cullen Campbell of Crudo and Okra, Chef Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar, and Chef Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ, where carnivorous impulses are set loose upon the world.
As a special bonus, this year will also feature the first ever bartender recipient, Bitter & Twisted’s principal barman and proprietor Ross Simon, whose precious Gaelic soul serves up dreamy adult beverages to the thirsty masses.
The Ripe Awards were the brainchild of the Men’s Art Council, a non-profit organization that works to support the Phoenix Art Museum through community events. Men’s Art Council member and Chairman of the Ripe Awards, Kenneth O’Connor, says the amount of talent present in the Arizona cooking scene right now is overwhelming, and he can’t wait to celebrate these five chefs and amazing mixologist.
“The valley just seems like it’s exploding with all these restaurateurs,” he said, and whittling those many talented chefs down to five was incredibly difficult. But thanks to the public submission element of this year’s awards, the council felt they were more in tune with the chefs who were actively making an impact in their local communities.
“These are folks, who through their talents and their efforts, are getting the valley noticed as a food destination. And they’re also people who are looking to carry the torch to the future, and create a synergy here in the valley,” he added.
Attendees can expect of night of incredible flavors spent in the company of some of the most beautiful art in Phoenix. The main attraction will be the chefs, who will each offer tastings of their signature dishes, and winning mixologist Simon will be paired with Arizona Distilling to create alcoholic magic.
The event will also feature live music, local wineries and breweries offering samples, bread supplied by Noble Bread, a silent auction, and according to O’Connor, “a little surprise.”
The awards ceremony will take place at the Phoenix Art Museum this Saturday, July 25, at 7 p.m. where bites and drinks will take place, and many a wandering craving will be satisfied.
WHAT: 2015 Ripe Culinary Fest + Awards Celebration
WHEN: 7:00 p.m., July 25, 2015
WHERE: Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004
COST: $55 per person, tickets available at: www.RipePHX.com
Proceeds go to support arts programming at Phoenix Art Museum
Photography: Grace Stufkosky