Community & Government Affairs


By Laura McMurchie, Experience Scottsdale

After more than 10 years, Scottsdale is home to another James Beard Award winner. And thanks to Chef Charleen Badman, 2019’s Best Chef – Southwest, Scottsdale is sure to solidify its status as a destination for foodie travelers.

Badman’s talents have captured national acclaim and recognition. Already, she has used her platform to promote Arizona’s entire culinary industry, sharing the spotlight with the area’s quality ingredients and her talented peers.

We at Experience Scottsdale have seen Badman preach the virtues of Arizona’s cuisine firsthand. Each year, Experience Scottsdale invites dozens of visiting travel journalists to enjoy a dining experience at FnB. It becomes a night these journalists never forget, as Badman and FnB co-owner Pavle Milic bring out plate after plate of delectable dishes, paired perfectly with Arizona-produced wine. They hear from both Badman and Milic about Arizona’s bounty – both in vegetables and grape varietals.

As a result of Experience Scottsdale’s invitations and pitches, last fiscal year, FnB was featured in national outlets like AFAR, Elite Traveler, The New York Times, Forbes and more.

It’s no surprise that Badman has been a semi-finalist for the James Beard Awards since 2014, and rightfully secured the honor in 2019. And while Scottsdale visitors, influenced by both the award and the destination coverage they read, will snag reservations at FnB, they will find that the restaurant is part of a much larger, rising culinary scene in Scottsdale.

With over 800 restaurants, Scottsdale has eateries that appeal to all tastes and budgets. Scottsdale is privileged to have talented chefs at the helm of such restaurants, including Samantha Sanz of Talavera, Brandon Levine of Sel, Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft, among many.

As food tourism continues to gain popularity, that’s a good feather to have in our destination’s cap – and just one of several feathers that we promote. According to travel industry researcher Skift, travelers spent $58 billion on food and drink while traveling in 2017, up more than 30% from 2012. According to Longwoods International, restaurant food and beverage accounted for 27% of expenditures for Scottsdale’s domestic overnight visitors in 2017. As travelers’ interest in local dining has grown, Experience Scottsdale has highlighted Scottsdale’s culinary prowess more and more.

The nearly 400 journalists Experience Scottsdale hosted last fiscal year sampled the area’s restaurants, from fine dining to casual haunts. Writers from media-rich markets like New York and Los Angeles met with local chefs and winemakers. Through such public relations efforts, resulting media coverage on Scottsdale’s culinary story reached more than 700 million readers and viewers.

But our food tourism promotions extend beyond public relations. In 2018, Experience Scottsdale partnered with James Beard Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Gooi to capture and produce video interviews with Scottsdale culinarians. His visual storytelling featured the likes of Sweet Republic, Chula Seafood and Zak’s Chocolates. 

Experience Scottsdale’s website and printed visitor guide offer a glimpse into the depth and breadth of Scottsdale’s dining culture, with restaurant listings and articles like “Healthy Eats & Decadent Treats” and “Cheers for Churros.”

Scottsdale boasts talented chefs, respected restaurants, and innovative wineries, breweries and craft cocktail bars. Experience Scottsdale has the privilege of helping introduce Scottsdale’s nearly 11 million annual visitors to local businesses like FnB, so that they hopefully come back for second helpings.  

Laura McMurchie is the vice president of communications of Experience Scottsdale.