One of the first things I noticed about Tucson's food and beverage scene was a somewhat prevailing mentality of not needing or wanting to be recognized. I'd ask folks in the industry around town just how it was that Tucson isn't a bigger deal nationally and at least statewide. That line of questioning was typically met with shrugs and a sentiment that felt a lot like "maybe we don't want to get big."
Whether that's true, it's beginning to look like the issue might lie more in the rest of the state and its modes of culinary recognition. Understandably, you can't expect someone in the biz to care too much about something that ignores their strides time and time again just because driving an hour and a half takes an hour and a half. Although the Arizona Foodist Awards finalists did include at least one Tucson-area nomination for most categories this year, that step in the right direction isn't really enough.
The announcement of the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame inductees for this year took that step right back by inducting, yet agin, only Phoenix-area food and beverage professionals. I'm not saying Tucson should be recognized as a hand out just to ensure inclusion, but I also find it really irksome that Tucson has been largely ignored by the ACHoF for over a decade (unless you count Sam Fox and his empire of upscale, but casual New American joints). That's to say Phoenix has had better entrants in every category for over a decade essentially and I don't buy it.
After all, can you even keep calling yourself the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame if you fail to represent anything south of Riggs Road? Is there some sort of legal precedent for this?
That's not to say the inductees this year didn't deserve to be recognized. It's just unfortunately beginning to look more and more like an unbreakable trend where one part of the state gets all of the credit for carrying the culinary torch—and it just isn't true.
Listen up, Phoenix: If you can make the drive to Gilbert to hit up Joe Johnston's restaurants, you're pretty much halfway to Tucson anyway. Overlooking Tucson makes these awards look silly and it's time for a change. If you're still not ready to head south, I suggest calling it the Scottsdale Culinary Hall of Fame since the ACHoF awards come from the Scottsdale Culinary Festival anyway.
And to Tucson: Keep doing what you're doing. It's great and we can just start our own awards if we need to. Best of Tucson is right around the corner, after all.