From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.
11. Nino McCurley of Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls
Before opening his ice cream business, Nino McCurley was a firefighter. He spent time working as a wildland firefighter, then as an aircraft rescue firefighter at Travis Air Force Base while also holding a civilian structural firefighting position in northern California.
"I never wanted anything but to be a firefighter my whole like, so that is exactly what I did," he says.
That is, until one day when he broke his back responding to a fire in July 2010. With three fractures in his back, McCurley was medically discharged but continued to work to in hopes of rejoining the fire department down the line. Then in August 2014, he was hit by a texting driver while riding his motorcycle to work. The accident would land him in a wheelchair for more than four months, after which he had to relearn to walk due to the excessive damage to his foot and ankle.
"All in all, it's been a wild and maniacal ride that doesn't have an end in sight," McCurley says. "I've been with my wife since 2008, and my daughter just turned 3. I am thankful for every day I'm lucky enough to be alive."
McCurley was selling paintings at an art show when he stumbled across videos of ice cream rolls being made — he fell in love and says he knew it was what he had been searching for. He opened Nomadic Ice Cream Rolls, Arizona's first Thai-style ice cream cart, earlier this year. Today, he dishes on his perfect food day and the secret sandwich you have to try.
My go to place for coffee in Phoenix is Tres Leches Cafe.
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is "The Grinder" at Windy City Dogs in El Mirage. It's a hot sandwich with meatballs, Italian beef, and salami. It's not on the menu but it's a classic!
The best advice I've gotten since starting my business is, "Do it, just do it! Don’t let your dreams be dreams. Yesterday you said tomorrow. So just do it! Make your dreams come true. Just do it. Some people dream of success, while you’re going to wake up and work hard at it. Nothing is impossible … you should get to the point where anyone else would quit and you’re not going to stop there. NO! What are you waiting for?! DO IT! JUST DO IT! YES YOU CAN! JUST DO IT! If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up." — Shia LaBeouf
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
If I could have dinner with any five people it would have to be Danny Devito, John Candy, Harry Caray, Christopher Walken, and Bill Murray, and we'd have to have some Fired Pie Pizza and wash it down with a few pitchers of beer from Papago Brewery.
My perfect food day in Phoenix would have to start with by taking my girls for an OG Cafe Churro from Tres Leches Cafe, then I'd snag some tacos from the United Lunchadores food truck for breakfast. For lunch, I'd head to Chicago Gyros on Union Hills, and I would have to end the night at Fired Pie with some Papago Brewery Orange Blossom brew.
The 2016 Tastemakers so far:
100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild
49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab
48. Ramona Button of Ramona Farms
47. Justin Piazza of La Piazza Al Forno and La Piazza PHX
46. Andrew Gooi of Food Talkies
45. Jason Raducha of Noble Bread and Noble Eatery
44. Ty Largo of Awe Collective
43. Christopher Gross of Christopher's and Crush Lounge
42. Heidi Lee of Into The Soup
41. ET Rivera of Tres Leches Cafe
40. Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies
39. Bobby Kramer of The Brickyard
38. Jenna Reeves of Press Coffee Roasters
37. Sarah Chisholm of Phoenix Public Market Cafe
36. Bill Kennedy of Futuro
35. Jan Bracamonte of J. Lauren PR & Marketing
34. Erin Romanoff of the uprooted kitchen
33. Baker Mandy Bublitz
32. Tony Chanthavong of Snoh Ice Shavery
31. Donald Hawk of Welcome Chicken + Donuts
30. Krystal Bittner of Arizona Society of Homebrewers
29. Garrison Whiting of Counter Intuitive and Cowboy Ciao
28. Michelle Jacoby and Mark Lipczynski of Bite Magazine
27. Chris Osborn of Western Retail Advisors
26. Yasu Hashino of Yasu Sushi Bistro
25. Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar by Jennifer's
24. Bret Pont of Hobe Meats
23. Josh Hebert of Posh Improvisational Cuisine
22. Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals
21. Andrew Fritz of In Good Spirits
20. Eddie Hantas of Hummus Xpress
19. Matt Taylor of Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden
18. Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wine Company
17. Tom D'Ambrosio of Aioli Gourmet Burgers
16. Randy Walters of Wimpy's Paradise
15. Urian Torres of FrinGo's Kitchen
14. Armando Hernandez of Tacos Chiwas
13. Lindsey Magee of Ollie Vaughn's
12. Travis Nass of CaskWerks Distilling