Roasted Carrots at Tito & Pep (Photo by Jackie Tran)

The James Beard Foundation is Coming to Tucson to Celebrate Local Chefs


November 17, 2023
By Matt Sterner

"Raising a glass to honor Southern Arizona culinary traditions, leaders, and flavors."

Hey, it’s beginning to become a normal thing nowadays — getting national recognition in some way or another, that is.

The latest has to do with the James Beard Foundation. On Saturday, December 16, the Southern Arizona culinary scene and some of the region’s chefs will get a national spotlight when the James Beard Foundation comes to town. During the event, which is named The Toast, they’ll be highlighting locally nominated and winning chefs in a holiday brunch experience.

The fundraising event will take place from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Ventana Canyon Club & Lodge and will feature traditional and seasonal bites from several local chefs. Oh, and it takes place indoors and outdoors, so dress accordingly if you’re the typical Tucsonan who freezes below 70 degrees.

Tickets are limited to 150 attendees and are $100 each. Each ticket includes more than 10 menu courses, unique arts experiences, and local libation pairings.

All proceeds from this collaborative event will provide program support for the youth education and support programs at Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance (SAACA), as well as helping the James Beard Foundation achieve its Good Food for Good® mission, which is rooted in advocacy, racial equity, sustainability, and women’s leadership.

“We know that the designation of Tucson as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and our inclusion in the Food Capitals by the Delice Network has brought international attention to Tucson, and now we are embarking on a new relationship with the James Beard Foundation,” said Felipe Garcia, Visit Tucson President & CEO. “Pima County Attractions and Tourism were able to find grant funding to make this event happen, and when looking for a local partner, we knew that SAACA was the right fit.”

The Toast will highlight local chefs who are past semifinalists, nominees, and winners. The honored guest at the event will be Kristopher Moon, President/COO of the James Beard Foundation.

James Beard Award Nominees, Semifinalists, and Winners Include:

  • JBF Award Winner Janos Wilder, Best Chef: Southwest 2000
  • JBF Award Winner El Guero Canelo, America’s Classics 2018
  • JBF Award Winner Don Guerra, Barrio Bread, Outstanding Baker 2019
  • JBF Award Nominee El Charro Café, Outstanding Restaurant 2019
  • JBF Award Semifinalist Maria Mazon, BOCA, Best Chef: Southwest 2020 and 2022
  • JBF Award Semifinalist John Martinez, Tito & Pep, Best Chef: Southwest 2022
  • JBF Award Semifinalist Wendy Garcia, Tumerico and La Chateria, Best Chef: Southwest 2023

The James Beard Awards are among the country’s most prestigious honors recognizing outstanding achievement in the culinary and food media industries. Acknowledging these prestigious honors indicates industry excellence and a candidate’s positive impact within their community.

Ventana Canyon Club & Lodge is located at 6200 N. Club House Ln. For more information and tickets, visit saaca.org.

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