Hello everyone, it’s a pleasure to see you again!
Some of you East Valley kids might remember me as Andi, the quirky clarinetist who always talked about Korean barbecue. (People also called me Spam, but that’s another story.) Well, after high school, I left The Valley of the Sun for The Old Pueblo, where I worked as a food reporter for the newspaper of the city, The Daily Star of Arizona.
But today is my ride home – as you can see in the photo of me wearing a tiara and smashing a pepperoni at Organ Stop Pizza.
Forgive me for this complacent exercise; I just can’t contain my excitement to return to metro Phoenix as a food critic for The Arizona Republic. I think this arrangement will work just fine for both of us, and I can’t wait to grab my chopsticks and start eating.
Here are some things to know about me
A few things about me, so that we can get to know each other again: I see the world through its food. Each meal is an adventure, like a delicious little story. My commitment to finding good food is both an art and an obsession, which means I’m willing to travel great distances for it.
For example, I once drove to Yuma and back for a bean burrito. On another occasion, I took an aging Toyota Yaris to San Carlos, Mexico for a night so I could “research” the sonoran mariscos. I’ve had a passport in my purse for four years because you never know when carne asada will call and you have to go to Nogales. Over the past few years, I have traveled to every state in Mexico to truly understand the diversity and vibrant flavors of its cuisine.
I also love malls and will walk through them like I’m walking through a state park. They are the beauty of our city, with their endless variety of family-run shops serving dishes like incredible sushi, Lebanese fattouches and crispy savory bagels. (Recommendations welcome!) I can sit in a mall for hours and come up with 10 story ideas just by talking to the people behind the counter. When I lived in Tucson, I drove I-10 for two hours just to run errands at Baiz Market or Mekong Plaza, scouring the parking lot for more leads.
Phoenix has always been my home
Even though I’m not from Valley, Phoenix has always been my home. I moved to the Chandler/Mesa area when I was six months old, a kid from New York who marveled at the city’s Mexican cuisine but also sought out the exceptional Chinese cuisine that the city is famous for. East Valley. I graduated from Dobson High School with a high GPA in Nello’s Pizza and Aloha Kitchen and went to college at the University of Arizona where I majored in tacos.
As the pandemic fades and the world seems to open up again, I am ready to return to where my passion began.
For restaurants in Phoenix, this is an incredible time of change and rebirth. The past year has been excruciatingly difficult for the dining scene, as we can see from the long list of high-profile closures that our catering team has chronicled. But at the same time, we’ve seen a democratization of food, where a home baker with an Instagram account can generate as much buzz as a five-star steakhouse. The restaurant community is tackling issues of racial and gender equity, as well as sustainability and fair labor practices, trying to rebuild our restaurants in a positive way that benefits workers and the environment as well as to customers.
These are all subjects that inspire me. I want to move beyond the typical “right/wrong” critique and document the cultural moment for our readers.
In a time when people are hesitant to put on pants and go out, I want to tell you what your time is worth. I don’t like to write negative reviews or summaries of mediocre culinary excursions. I consider it my job to drive and eat, to find the truly exceptional people, because food is an experience and I want to make your life more interesting.
That said, if a restaurant is busy and I don’t think it’s worth it, I wouldn’t hesitate to cut ties and tell you.
“My priority is to gain trust with you”
My priority is to earn the trust of you, our readers, because we are in the same boat.
I can’t say enough how honored I am to work here at The Arizona Republic with a stellar team of female writers covering the Valley’s food and nightlife scene. I grew up with this newspaper perched under my cereal, and I hope I can live up to the long history of quality reporting in its pages.
Please contact me and email me about what you would like to see in the catering section in the future.
I can’t wait to break bread with you.
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