By Annika Tomlin
Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona was upset that the press didn’t rate Phoenix as a desirable culinary destination.
So, she took matters into her own hands and created Devour Week, a weeklong culinary celebration that showcases Arizona’s food and drink purveyors. The week’s signature events are the Culinary Classic, Seven Chefs Dinner and Devour the World. This year it’s Saturday, February 15, to Sunday, February 23.
During the main event, the Culinary Classic, guests will meet chefs and restaurateurs, partake in innovative culinary demonstrations, and taste goods from the region’s best chefs, restaurants, local food artisans, brewers and vintners. It is Saturday, February 22, and Sunday, February 23, at the Desert Botanical Garden. Only VIP tickets remain.
The Seven Chefs Dinner brings together seven local chefs who will create a farm-fresh meal paired with Arizona wines at Phoenix’s The Gladly from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, February 16.
Devour the World celebrates the international flavors of the Valley from the likes of The Breadfruit Rum & Bar; Colados Coffee & Crepes; Kood Tea Bar & Café; The Rez: An Urban Eatery and Republica Empanada to Centennial Plaza in Peoria from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, February 15.
“We decided to open an Arizona culinary event that focuses on Arizona talent,” Lanning says. “We brought together all of the chefs from Arizona. Our goal is to showcase all that Arizona has to offer.”
This is the first year it’s in the Northwest Valley.
“I think Devour the World has always been a trailblazing event, and we’re excited to expose the West Valley, which has long been a fast-growing region here in the Valley, to the greater chef scene,” Lanning says.
One of those chefs is Danielle Leoni, the executive chef and co-owner of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Downtown Phoenix. Leoni has attended Devour the World previously to show off the restaurant’s Jamaican and Caribbean-based cuisine.
She initially attended the event to gain exposure for her then-new restaurant. Now she gives back to the community.
“Every year we’ve gone we’ve taken home at least one gold medal, sometimes two, and we just kept going back,” Leoni says.
Last year was the first year that The Breadfruit wasn’t part of Devour Week.
“I felt like I did my work. I felt like I shouldn’t take home another gold medal,” Leoni says. “Somebody else needs to win. I was just standing in the way instead of helping.”
This year, she’s bringing sustainable seafood to the Northwest Valley.
“If you’re worth your weight in salt, as a chef, you have to do things that are good for the people around you and then in turn you’re supported,” Leoni says.
“There are people everywhere and everyone deserves good food.”
Colados Coffee and Crepes of Goodyear and Avondale are participating in this year’s Devour the World as well.
The Reina family will bring their top-selling entrees to Devour the World like the chipotle crepe (cheese, spinach and ham) and the Nutella (Nutella, strawberries and banana).
The family never had a crepe until a 2013 trip to Paris.
“A friend of ours told us we had to try crepes and we had never heard of crepes in our life,” says Aaron Reina, son of owners Yesica and Berni Reina.
The couple considered opening a shop to bring the flavors of Paris to the West Valley. The plans were accelerated after they were laid off. The shop—named after a coffee-making process that involves cloth filters—is a family affair, with the couple and their three children running the restaurants.
The Reina family was introduced to Local First Arizona through their community and became a part of Devour Phoenix shortly thereafter. They hope to show off their culture at Devour the World.
“My mom goes from table to table,” Aaron says. “She says hi to every customer. That’s the kind of the culture of who we are.”
Devour Week, devourphoenix.com.