When you run in a circle of foodies, you experience your city's culture through a completely new lens. I had heard about the Devour Culinary Classic festival months ago as a high-end, food-lover's weekend of tasting the best that Phoenix chefs have to offer. Did I mention it's hosted by the Desert Botanical Garden? It's truly a picturesque event for the wealthiest of Scottsdale and Phoenix to enjoy and with one-way tickets starting at over $100, as a college student, I figured I would have to sit this one out.
Near the end of January, I heard someone in my office mention that the festival was coming up and that they were looking for volunteers. I have heard about music festivals giving free admission to volunteer workers before but I wasn't sure what a classy, culinary festival would offer. They had a Google Form hidden on their website for volunteers. In exchange for a 9-5 shift volunteering on one day, you could enjoy the festival as a ticket-holding guest the alternate day. What that really means is in exchange for helping teach guests about composting and handing out wine glasses all day, I got to sample dishes from Phoenix's most acclaimed chefs for free.
The way my schedule worked, I got to enjoy Saturday's talent line-up of restaurants that are normally way out of my price range (I'm talking money) and work all day on Sunday.
Here's what I ate:
Chorizo Burger from Otro Cafe
Smoked Chula Swordfish Belly from Chula Seafood
Scallop with Mango Salsa from Stock and Stable
Potato Chip with Sour Cream Panna Cotta (aka fancy chips and dip) from Stock and Stable
Various Artisan Popcorn with Italian Hot Chocolate from Kettle Heroes
Chicken Marsala with Foie Gras Ravioli from Fat Ox
Whipped Ricotta Gelato from Fat Ox
Mole and Duck Quesadilla from the Mission
Char Siu Pork with Radish Slaw from Welcome Diner
Carnitas Taco from Taco Chelo
Golden Milk Latte from Phoenix Public Market
Mac N Cheese Taco from Social Hall
Pork Belly and Polenta from Aioli Burger
Arroz Negro (Lobster, shrimp, calamari, mussel, chorizo, with Saffron aioli) from T. Cooks
Salted Mexican Chocolate Tart from Province Urban Kitchen and Bar
Uni (Sea Urchin) with Caviar from Roka Akur
Brisket from Roka Akur (the line was 20 mins long for a tiny slice of this)
Raspberry Gelato Popsicle Doc's Artisan Ice Cream
Citrus Flourless Cake with Sea Salt from Eat by Stacey Weber
Chicken and Waffle from Unknown
Lobster Roll from Unknown
Everything got a little hazy near the end. We were there right at 11:30 a.m. when it started and stayed until about 3 p.m. when chefs were starting to run out of everything (which is great considering the event ends at 3:30 p.m.). I got to talk to a lot of chefs about how long their restaurants had been open and many were as excited as I was to experience their first Devour. There were a few stops I wish we had gone to before they ran out but next year I'll have to make a more strategic plan of where I want to go and when.
The volunteering experience was pretty basic. I handed out wine glasses to guests coming in for about 2 hours and then switched over to helping guests sort their waste (trash, recycle, and compost). The volunteer managers were very nice and catered Oreganos for us at lunch. Some of the really nice volunteer managers let us sneak tastes from the restaurants showcasing that day. My advice to myself for next year would be to help with set-up volunteer shifts instead of full-day shifts. I would've rather worked in the morning of both days and gotten to experience the whole weekend as a guest instead of working a full day and only experiencing the other.