We received this letter from Brian Sullivan, Tasting Room Manager of Caduceus Cellars, about his local food journey:
It was such a great snapshot of the kind of local partnerships we aim to build, that I had to share it for the rest of the state to see.
The event Brian mentions, the Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection is currently accepting registrations for its fifth iteration on October 6th, at the Desert Botanical Garden. For tickets and more information, please visit bit.ly/farmerchef.
I moved to AZ in 1993, and founded a cafe in Jerome. During the café’s 16-year run, I found it to be very difficult to find some ingredients here that I was used finding quite easily in other, more food-aware cities that I had been used to. Thankfully, as time has gone by, things have progressed in Arizona. Interesting, cutting edge restaurants have proliferated. In addition, a wine industry arose to compliment the food.
After I sold the café, I became involved in the growing Arizona wine industry, when I took on the management of my friend Maynard Keenan's Caduceus Cellars tasting room in Jerome. For the tasting room, I was not interested in the wine related merchandise that could be had out of any number of national catalogs. I wanted products that were more meaningful.
My first sight of what turned out to be the tip of an iceberg of local food products was Hayden Flour Mills. Maynard had sent me there to pick up the flour with which he wanted to make dried pasta for sale at the tasting room. There I learned about the resurrection of White Sonoran Wheat. From there I found myself re-investigating the books and articles of local author Gary Nabhan, like Coming Home to Eat.
Finding them was a time-consuming project. I searched, and after many dead ends, found a wonderful home baker to supply our biscotti, a bakery for breadsticks, croissants, and chocolates, Native Seeds/Searchfor seeds and various other producers. But finding local product was slow going - especially since here in Jerome we are a hundred and more miles away from the major metropolitan areas.
I don't remember exactly how, but I came across a notice of the 2013 Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection. Immediately, I knew I had to go. It was there that I found the submerged portion of the aforementioned iceberg; a mother load of producers, whom I'm not sure I would have found on my own.
But there at the event, under one roof, were a plethora of products whose existence I had only suspected until then. What a fun ride it was that day, discovering that behind each of these local products, were local people transforming their dreams into reality - and realizing that I could help their dream along while bringing to fruition my own vision for the tasting room in Jerome. A win/win situation!
Some of the suppliers I found at the 2013 farmer chef connection are Mano y Metate Moles, Black Mesa Ranch, Rising Hy Specialty Sauces, Ramona Farms, Flor de Mayo, Grassfed Beef Crisps and Wei of Chocolate. I hope local producers are teaming up with Local First Arizona and Edible Phoenix for this year’s event. Because I will be there, and I'm hoping to discover and meet many more of you!
Want to share your Farmer+Chef story? Send a letter about your experience at Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection to [email protected] and if it's a good fit, we'll put it on the blog!