In a ceremony held on Thursday, June 2, the Arizona Restaurant Association (ARA) honored the winners of the 2022 Foodist Awards. Results were based on public nominations and votes from the community in support of the food and beverage industry.

“It was our absolute pleasure to return in person for an amazing celebratory event where we could raise a glass and honor to this incredibly talented group of people,” says Arizona Restaurant Association President and CEO Steve Chucri. “We have all worked diligently through the extreme challenges of the pandemic to keep our hospitality growing and thriving — and these are just a few of the amazing people we want to credit. There are so many more out there and we hope to recognize and celebrate them in the future, too.”

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Winners in their respective categories are as follows:


Innovative Fast Bites — Thai Chili 2 Go

Nancy Rusconi, Food Pioneer Winner, Chef Michael Rusconi and daughter Jessica Rusconi.

Outstanding Signature Dish — CRUjiente Tacos’ Korean Fried Chicken Taco

World Class Dessert — Café Zuzu’s Show Stopper Shake

Exceptional Happy Hour — Postino


Top Arizona Brewery — Huss Brewing Co.

Superb Bar/Nightclub — Garden Bar PHX

Best Beverage Program — Maple & Ash

Most Creative Cocktails To-Go — Pigtails’ Quarantine and Chill


Innovative Fine Dining Restaurant Concept — Cloth & Flame

Emerging Restaurant of the Year — Chantico

Outstanding Local Restaurant Group — Fox Restaurant Concepts

Uniquely Arizona — Macayo’s Mexican Food


Pandemic Good Neighbor — Sasha Raj, 24 Carrots

Employee of the Year — Mary French Dafoe, Tonto Bar & Grill

Manager of the Year — Jim Gallen, Mountain Shadows Resort

Top Mixologist | Bartender — Kim Haasarud, Garden Bar PHX

Top Chef — Braden Levine, Sel

Food Pioneer — Jeff Smedstad, Elote Café and Michael Rusconi, Rusconi’s American Kitchen

Restaurant Tourism Ambassador — Debbie Johnson, Arizona Office of Tourism

Legislator of the Year — Karen Fann, President of the Arizona Senate

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the Arizona Restaurant Association is pleased to have reunited the best of the best in the food and beverage industry for a night of celebrating their hard work and dedication to the Arizona culinary scene. The Foodist Awards honor the culinary minds that help shape the state’s culinary landscape. whether they cook regularly in their kitchen, dream up the next great concepts of tomorrow, mix it up behind  the bar or manage foodservice solutions, these are the people that contribute to exciting and exhilarating food and beverage developments.

For more about the Foodist Awards, visit