James Beard Foundation's Taste America Tour "Best Chefs: Southwest" Celebration
The James Beard Foundation's "Best Chefs: Southwest" event brought hundreds of food lovers and a handful of the region's best culinary brains to the Westin Kierland resort on Friday night.
Jeremiah Toller Nobou Fukuda's dish of spoons.
From start to finish, guests enjoyed an array of handcrafted dishes and drinks prepared by award-winning chefs and their volunteer sous chefs. The dinner and cocktail reception were some of the final events on the foundation's Taste America tour that brought a series of them to 10 cities over five weeks to celebrate "local flavor."
The outdoor event began with a cocktail reception with hors d'oeuvres provided by local James Beard Award winners Robert McGrath, Janos Wilder, and Chris Bianco.
Jeremiah Toller Food lovers and chefs gathered under the stars on Friday night.
ACME Oyster House provided the goods for an oyster bar featuring three different preparations of the salty delicacy. Though the classic raw variety was a popular choice, guests tended to favor the garlic parsley butter grilled and deep-fried oysters all courtesy of chef and the evening's host, Robert McGrath. At the bar, guests could choose between wine, beer or a craft cocktail created by chef Janos Wilder of Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails in Tucson. The "Cuban Sunset" included habanero-infused vodka, passion fruit puree, and a splash of simple syrup to offer a perfect balance of heat and sweetness.
Jeremiah Toller The Cuban Sunset by Janos Wilder
Wilder also offered up small bites including hamachi sashimi with pickled shiktake, seaweed salad and foie gras snow. His second dish, a fresh corn masa gordita with lamb barbarcoa and spicey tepary beans indicated his talents using authentic Arizona ingredients, a skill he used when he opened Kai at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass in 2002. Wilder was named Best Chef: Southwest by the foundation in 2000.
Also during the cocktail reception guests could see Phoenix chef Chris Bianco plating dishes of handmade pasta made from Arizona-grown durum. Accompanied by a delicate but flavorful white sauce and market vegetables, the dish was a great example of the chef's signature style of cuisine.
Jeremiah Toller Chris Bianco at the "Best Chefs: Southwest" fundraiser.