10 Things Learned at TEDx's Night of Food in Phoenix

Last night speakers from throughout the food world joined forces to present some of their discoveries to a sold out Phoenix audience at TEDx Evans Churchill's "If You Can't Take The Heat, Get Out of The Kitchen" event. From beer masters to urban farmers and avid juicers, the event looked at a range of topics, each vetted in about nine minutes. The rapid-fire presentation method ensured speakers kept it concise and were on point.

The presentations from last night's event will be available on the TEDx YouTube channel in about two weeks, but here is a sneak peak of 10 of the best moments from last night's event at the Phoenix Convention Center:

See also: TEDx Evans Churchill event at the Phoenix Convention Center

Working in a food truck is really physically demanding. Brad Moore of Short Leash spoke about making the transition from food truck to brick and mortar restaurant, but before that, he let the audience know that the heat is a very real thing in a food truck kitchen. Imagine being in an 80 square foot metal box with a deep fryer, a grill, a stove top, an oven, and more, all in close quarters with another person.

As he put it, that leaves "no room for any assholery," but it's also something you should really consider before opening up that dumplings food truck. (But someone should really do that, please.)

"Chew your juice." Kelly Watkins of Juby True, a Sam Fox-backed juice bar chain, knows her juice and, as a nurse, knows her nutrition. However, she says the one thing first-time juicers really need to do is swish their juice around, rather than just gulping it down. According to Watkins, a juice isn't a beverage, but more of a super-concentrated elixir. Swishing it before swallowing will help some of those enzymes in your saliva begin to break down the nutrients in the juice.

There are edible weed treats that get you high, and then there are legitimate MMJ-medicated foods that don't. When chef Payton Curry took the stage to talk about edible weed foods, we'll admit we expected a bunch of stoner brownies. Instead, he educated the crowd on the difference between THC-rich treats, which do get you high, and the CBN/CBD infusions he's been working on that have helped families with children who either had severe epilepsy or were autistic with violent episodes. Curry's work is completely legal in the state and his use of all local and organic ingredients means he's feeding these children high-quality, nutritious foods that are also medibles. Between that work and running Brat Haus, you have to wonder where he finds the time.

Payton Curry's punsmanship was on point. What Curry did make plenty of time for was giving the audience pretty much non-stop laughs in a nine minute period with a series of weed-laced dish names. Don't let the funny names fool you, though. His work is really serious.

Gadzooks' assembly line gives the customer control, but also keeps prices down and quality up. Owner Aaron Pool took the stage to dispel thoughts that he stole Chipotle's concept. Really his assembly line ordering process allows the customer to be completely satisfied with the end product by allowing them to call out "audibles" through the whole process. Longer time in the oven? More crema? No problem. This process of mix and match maximizes the ingredients available at Gadzooks, allowing for near-limitless possibilities for combinations.

However, the fast casual approach also allows him to make it a quality-driven product, rather than relying on quantity like a fast food joint. However, since it also isn't a table service restaurant either, he can keep prices lower.

Aquaponics are the solar panels of sustainable food systems. Dr. George Brooks' work with aquaponics systems in Phoenix is paving the way for Phoenix to limit food deserts by creatively using a small amount of space to raise fish and grow edible produce, all in a sustainable, solar-powered system. There's even a class at Mesa Community College to teach the value and function of these growing systems. If you're interested in helping out, his project recently built a 13,000 square foot greenhouse at G. Benjamin Brooks Elementary (named after his father) and they are looking for volunteers.

There are five times as many fast food restaurants as there are grocers in Maricopa County. On top of accessibility and low price, fast food spots also take EBT. Gross. However, folks like Johnny Garippa are on the vanguard of training young adults in the city to learn how to farm and make better food choices at Hope House Farms in Phoenix. His goal is to see more community markets and increase availability of nutritious foods for everyone. He says the more we support urban farms and local farmers markets, the better the city will be for everyone.

Next time someone says they're a cicerone, know it's pretty special. Chuck Noll of Crescent Crown Distributing was one of the first hundred certified cicerones in the world. Now he's looking at taking his love of craft beer, which started with a sip of Anchor Steam in the 70s, and turning that into a masters-level cicerone certification. There are only eight of those currently.

It's all about following your passion. Noll repeated one word over and over and that word was passion. However, it was a theme throughout the night. Brad Moore followed his love of hot dogs and created a thriving local business and bolstered the food truck movement in Phoenix. Dr. Brooks and Johnny Garippa are showing kids that real food is attainable through hands-on sustainable farming. Payton Curry found a safe, healthy way to treat everything from epilepsy to insomnia with food and a little (legal) marijuana. Even if food isn't your passion, finding what drives you improves your life and the lives of others around you.

Donuts and beer go really well together. Short Leash Sit... Stay's new brioche donuts were paired with San Tan's Devil's Ale and it was a recipe for deliciousness at the Fed After Ted event. Luckily, with 20 brews on draft at the restaurant, you can find your own winning donut and beer combo.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch