PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- We're celebrating 25 years of "Good Morning Arizona" this week. One favorite restaurant in Phoenix, Tarbell's, is also celebrating its 25th birthday. But a lot has changed in the food industry since 1994.

When longtime food journalist Howard Seftel started writing about the Phoenix food scene in the 1990s, he wasn't sure he'd have enough restaurants to review every week.

"It was a challenge to come up with 52 restaurants," Seftel said.

Back then, he says diverse cuisine was limited.

"In those days I was doing things like bakeries, food courts, sandwich shops," said Seftel. "And one of the distinguishing things we had were high class resorts with very fancy restaurants."

But as people with different backgrounds moved in, so did new flavors.

"Now we have more than 45 or 50 countries represented," said Seftel. "Entrepreneurs understood that if you build restaurants they will come, and they did."

After retiring, Seftel took his words to the small screen with a Youtube series about the Phoenix culinary scene and he finally got to meet one of the restaurateurs who was just starting out in '94: Mark Tarbell.

"I had 3 goals," Tarbell said. "Stay open, be a big contributor to my community and number three is going to be a shocker: Stay open!"

The fine dining restaurant had white tablecloths but served every day comfort food. Tarbell says consistency is what keeps people coming back at a time when diners have more options than ever.

"The first dish I ever served from this building, before it was even open was the salmon," Tarbell said."I tried to take it off 3 times with just terrible results. The first time, I had just bought my first house in Phoenix and was walking my dog. A neighbor said hello. He said, 'Oh you're the owner of Tarbells?' The second thing out of his mouth was, 'Why'd you take the salmon off?'"

Getting recognized is not new for Tarbell. He's added TV host to his resume and he's one of many so-called celebrity chefs in town. A title that didn't exist when he was first starting out.

"Twenty five years ago I never thought it would happen ever in my life," said Tarbell.

He, like dozens of other Valley chefs, have appeared on different Food Network shows like "Iron Chef" or "Chopped."

"There is way more talent and more sophistication from every level from the people coming up in the industry," said Tarbell.

Today, that talent comes in many forms.

The rise in street food over the last two decades proves success no longer require formal training. And it launched a new venture in the Phoenix food scene: the food festival.

"(The fact) that they are successful here in Phoenix without a pedestrian culture kind of speaks to our love of food and our sense of adventure with the food scene here in town," said David Tyda, Food Festival Creator.

Tyda started the Arizona Taco Festival 10 years ago when there were only 10 trucks in town total. Now, he says there are more than 300.

"They decide I'm going to live the dream, I'm going to quit my job and hit the road and do my food truck thing," said Tyda.

Tyda says he's witnessed a major change since he moved here in '94, especially impressed by how young people are more into food than ever.

"I think about college kids today," said Tyda. "They're going for bruschetta, they're going for high end tacos, they're sitting down for meals. We never sat down, it was a grab and go type of thing."

And back then there was no Yelp or Instagram so no one was snapping pics of their meals to share with others. Now, it's how some people make a living.

"As much as I like to make fun of people who take pictures of their food," Tyda said. "It's part of the puzzle that builds our food scene."

Social media plays a big role in how we eat and interact with businesses. And it only helps spread the word that Phoenix is an underrated foodie destination.

"I think the trend is definitely upward," Seftel said. "I don't think there's any holding us back."

Ali Dugaw is an Emmy-Award Winning journalist who produces for 3TV's Good Morning Arizona. Click here to see more stories published by Ali.
 
 


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(3) comments

Phillup Witgas

Phoenix has never had a "food scene". This place has no culture, no class oh, and the worst freekin drivers in the world.

PhiIIup Witgas

Yet I really love living here.

Daffy

Crime evolved right along side it. [censored][ban]

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