New festival cooks up best of local foods

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Keenan Turner | The Daily Wildcat

María Mazon, owner and executive chef at Boca Tacos, shows off the chipotle balls and fish tacos she will bring to the Viva La Local Food Festival on Sunday.

Going local has become the new “it” thing within many culinary circles.

For the first time, Viva La Local Food Festival will bring together the best of everything local. The free event features more than 80 vendors from Southern Arizona.

“Local food doesn’t necessarily have to mean a local farm,” said Manish Shah, executive director of Heirloom Farmers Market and founder of Maya Tea Company. “It can also mean … anybody that we can really be connected with, that has a connection with food and a connection with the city.”

Through his companies, Shah has been involved with many culinary events. Though he and his friends have considered creating their own event for the past few years, it wasn’t until this year that Shah brought the idea to fruition. He said that once he started planning the festival, it quickly gained support, and grew into something larger than he had dreamed of.
“We didn’t know there was a need to do this as much as it’s turned out to be,” Shah said.

According to Shah, much of the event’s planning has unfolded organically.

Diane Frisch, the event coordinator, said that this sort of community effort speaks to the spirit and the philosophy of the event.

Part of that philosophy is to keep the festival affordable. All food, beer and wine will be priced at $5. Shah said this budget-friendly environment is important to ensure that everyone can enjoy the festival.

“It gives the opportunity for everyone to really participate as a community,” Shah said.

Shah also said he hopes that the event draws both farmers market regulars and those who are new to the scene, including students, who often aren’t the targeted audience for events focusing on locality.

Featuring local growers will also help promote heathier eating, he added.

“The food’s fresher, there’s no preservatives in it, it’s more nutritious, your money stays close to home,” Shah said. “It’s not going to a national entity that’s taking its profits away from your city or area.”


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