Great Arizona Picnic

Step away from the oven, and hang up your apron. The home kitchen is no place to be this weekend — not when you could bump elbows with big-name chefs and sample food from more than 50 Valley eateries all in one place.

Six culinary celebrities — including Jonathan Waxman of the Bravo Network’s “Top Chef Masters” 2010, Robin Miller of The Food Network, and Sam Zien of “Just Cook This” on Discovery Health — will appear Saturday and Sunday at Cooks and Corks.

The event, which features cooking demonstrations, food and wine, and book signings, occurs in conjunction with Great Arizona Picnic, an outdoor smorgasboard laid out by restaurants from across the Valley.

Both are part of the Scottsdale Culinary Festival. The 33-year-old fundraiser for the Scottsdale League for Arts is one of the Valley’s the most anticipated culinary events of the year. It draws 40,000 people to more than a dozen events, according to the arts league.

Admission to Cooks and Corks runs $65-$75 and includes entry to the Great Arizona Picnic if you pre-purchase tickets online. In addition to Waxman, Miller and Zein, chefs in attendance will include Wilo Benet (of “Top Chef Masters” 2009), Alex Seidel (“Food & Wine” Best New Chef 2010) and Jonathon Sawyer (“Food & Wine” Best New Chef 2010).

Foodies on a budget can have similar experience for their $10 admission fee to the picnic. Admission includes cooking demonstrations by local chefs Aaron May, Michael DeMaria and Jason Wyrick from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. It also includes the Challenge to the Chefs at 1 p.m. Sunday, when five local chefs will race the clock to turn a basket of mystery ingredients into a winning appetizer and entree. Among the chefs who will compete is Kelly Fletcher of Tempe’s House of Tricks.

The picnic features continuous live music, special activities and snacks for families, and areas devoted to vodka cocktails, tequila, beers or wine.

New this year is the GAP Card. It replaces tasting tickets.

“It’s easier to keep track of, and it makes it easier for you not to have to carry around a bunch of tickets and count them out,” says Riley Kissee, spokesman for the festival. “You can put (money) on there, and at the end of the day, if you have any left, you can either put it back in your pocket or donate it to charity,” he says.

Cards will be available at the gate. They can be loaded with any value you choose at booths stationed throughout the event grounds. Most food samples will run the equivalent of $2-$5, says Riley.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or

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