We are pleased to welcome Marianne Belardi to the Local First Arizona family! Marianne will be taking on the role as Devour Phoenix Liaison, coordinating with the Devour Phoenix restaurant coalition, organizing the Devour Phoenix eGift Card, planning and executing events including the Devoured Culinary Classic, among other fun local foodie activities! We asked Marianne a few questions so that you could get to know her: Tell us a bit about your background:
I spent the first half of my life on Long Island, 15 minutes from the Atlantic ocean, with an extended family of 13. My immigrant grandparents taught me to grow things, understand their Sicilian dialect, and eat "slow food" before it was a movement. I studied Romance Languages at Nassau Community College and Communications at Hofstra University. After graduation, I traveled and worked as an office assistant in diverse fields, including a stint at the BBC World Service Radio in London. I moved to Arizona temporarily, but the county police department call up I'd anticipated for four years didn't compel me to return to New York.
When a lengthy temp position as a French translator ended, I ended up in fishnet stockings and pillbox hats, waiting tables at Ed Debevic's and planning to write my Great American Novel. But I fell in love with the energy and theatricality of the restaurant business, which led me to acting classes and community theater, as well as a management position. In 1996, I helped establish the Cowboy Ciao group of restaurants, initially running the kitchen, and eventually handling Communications, Marketing and PR for four unique establishments.
For the past several years, I've helped refine processes, enhance guest experiences, and support Social Media efforts for several local businesses, including Barb's Bakery, FnB/Bodega, The Herb Box, and Marcellino Ristorante. I'm a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier and Slow Food Phoenix, and support social media efforts for both. I love being around animals, and am considering a pet sitting business. Other dream jobs include: writing, teaching at a Montessori school; being certified in Reflexology and Aromatherapy; and owning a bed & breakfast.
What drew you to Local First Arizona?
I admired Kimber Lanning from the minute we met, and I've been an LFA supporter from the early days, when I sat in on board meetings at Duck & Decanter and volunteered at the first Fall Festival. Kimber was the first person to call me when I left my 20-year career and ask what I wanted to do next, and to whom she might introduce me. I'm excited to work with the LFA team through her leadership. Having been part of its evolution for more than two decades, I'm thrilled to champion the local dining scene and its continuing advancement, as well as support Devour Phoenix restaurants with the Marketing and Social Media aspects of my role.
What is your favorite local business and why?
I love Noble Bread, the artisan bakery opened with a Kickstarter fund in 2012. This bread changed my life. After being diagnosed with both gluten intolerance and psoriasis in 2009, I radically altered my eating habits to determine if gluten was the culprit of debilitating blisters on my hands and feet. Charleen began using Noble Bread at FnB and I received a twice-weekly delivery at the Bodega, which led to conversations with documentary filmmaker JD McClelland (The Grain Divide). He persuaded me to try this wild yeast, long-fermented bread, reassuring me its probiotic effect might actually be helpful. Additionally, I discovered anything made with organic flour or ancient grains (think: Arizona-grown items from Hayden Flour Mills), didn't cause a reaction. I also adore Noble Eatery, the brick-and-mortar space Jason and Claudio opened earlier this year, where you can feed your face and your soul with rustically delicious Italian small plates, crafted with ingredients of integrity, simplicity and an extra measure of love.
Tell us about one of your life's passions:
How to choose? Nature. Writing. Family. Animals. Kids. Seniors. Veterans. Hospice. Clean Food. Nostalgia. Conservation. Foreign languages. Wellness. Repurposing. Recycling. Travel. Reading. Natural Healing. Cursive writing. I've been a cheerleader and an encourager since I was a small child. My overriding passion is helping and being of service, or simply spreading joy and positivity in any situation.