Chef Stephen Jones is no stranger to the Valley’s food scene. The executive chef and co-owner of the larder + the delta, a southern-inspired soiree for your palate that made its mark at Phoenix’s Desoto Central Market, is set to open its own doors downtown in early 2018 and is easily recognizable among both seasoned foodies and culinary novices alike.
But Jones isn’t just known for his talent in the kitchen. The local chef, who recently won $30,000 on Guy’s Grocery Games, a portion of which he decided to donate to an organization that serves the homeless population, is also making a name for himself throughout the community for his selfless, give-back attitude.
In the past two years alone, Chef Jones, and his fellow cooking buddies, better known as the Arizona Seven, have partnered with Emerging Leaders to raise more than $70,000 for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Emerging Leaders board member Lindsay Walker sat down with Jones to talk cooking, eating, and giving for the upcoming Wipe Out event.
LW: Emerging Leaders is so thrilled to partner with you and your chef friends again this year to host Wipe Out! on October 21st. For those who have never been, what’s this event all about?
SJ: This event is something that I wait for every year. It’s such a wonderful gathering of beautiful hearts and minds. This event brings together the Valley’s biggest names in the culinary field and the Valley’s premiere charitable fundraising group, Emerging Leaders, to benefit one of the best places on earth – Phoenix Children’s Hospital. This event is not only a fundraiser, but is also a small culinary festival where each chef cooks up one to two small bites centered around a theme, this year being “Wipe Out!” – a 50s and 60s beach theme. Guests can look forward to dishes like crab nachos, shrimp corn dogs and other fun bites. It’s such a fun evening every year.
LW: The theme of this year’s event is inspired by the 1950s/60s vintage beach era. You’re originally from California, so, can you “hang ten” with the best of them?
SJ: I’ve been known to test the waters a time or two in my day. (Cue laughter)
LW: You have a natural gift for serving and uniting the community through food. Why do you think the two go so well together?
SJ: In my personal opinion, you can’t have one without the other. The simple act of eating is community. So many times, we often forget the simple things because life nowadays is so busy and distracting, but the simple act of getting together with friends and family, eating a meal together, laughing and talking…now that’s community to me.
LW: There are a ton of worthwhile charities doing wonderful things in the Valley. What’s special about Phoenix Children’s Hospital?
SJ: Well that’s an easy answer…the children. No child should ever have to go through some of the things that they and their families go through.
LW: What can “beach bums” at Wipe Out! expect you to cook up this year?
SJ: There are so many ideas I have been kicking around, but I’m leaning towards something with spam….
LW: Delicious. Now, if you were stranded on a deserted island and had to live off of one beach-inspired dish, what would it be?
SJ: Whole roast fish of any kind. A little bit of sea salt and citrus and call it a day! So good!