Yuma Lettuce Days will sprout up "down on the farm" in 2015, the Yuma Visitors Bureau (YVB) announced in June. The annual "feastival" that celebrates the area's agricultural abundance will take place Feb. 28 and March 1 at the University of Arizona's Yuma Agricultural Center (YAC), a working research farm in the Yuma Valley just west of town.
The venue change is part of an expanded partnership between Yuma Visitors Bureau and the University of Arizona, explained YVB Executive Director Linda Morgan and YAC Director Dr. Kurt Nolte.
"Holding Lettuce Days in the middle of a real farm will make it even more authentic and unique," Morgan said. "We are excited about the new interactive experiences we can offer on site and are delighted to forge a stronger partnership with our friends at UA."
"With ongoing riverfront and downtown development, Lettuce Days was outgrowing its location at the Quartermaster Depot," Morgan said. "I reached out to Kurt, and the more we talked, the more excited we both got about all the fun things we could do there, from farm equipment demonstrations to hay rides, to a petting zoo with farm animals."
There are still lots of details to be worked out, but Nolte said his staff is already preparing to plant 5 to 10 acres of grass as a green footprint for the festival, with adjoining fields to be graded and prepped for parking. An outdoor kitchen for cooking demos is in the works, and Lettuce Days will be able to utilize existing buildings and infrastructure like walk-in coolers, labs and conference rooms.
The move is all about offering "more" to festivalgoers, Morgan said.
"We'll still have everything you always loved about Lettuce Days, like celebrity chefs and cooking demonstrations, great entertainment, the giant salad bar, and the farmers market," she said. "But we'll have more room, more parking, and more real 'farm stuff' to see and do because we're bringing folks to the farm instead of bringing the farm to town."
She pointed out that the actual move is only a bit more than seven miles, or less than 15 minutes by car.
"Folks who come to Lettuce Days will still be close to historic downtown, the beautiful riverfront and great shopping, dining and hotels," Morgan said. "But now Lettuce Days will also give them a taste of country down on the farm."
Chris Jacobson, better known as "CJ" of Bravo's hit show Top Chef, was a private chef who has worked for the likes of author and columnist Arianna Huffington and the Marcian family of the Guess Corporation. He most recently appeared on Top Chef Masters as a sous chef to Michelin-starred chef Michael Chiarello. CJ approaches the culinary world with the utmost of confidence, having developed a love and appreciation for food during his time competing in Europe as a professional volleyball player.
CJ graduated from the California School of Culinary Arts - Le Cordon Bleu and holds a degree from Pepperdine University, served as the executive chef for The Yard, a gastro-pub in Santa Monica and is currently the executive chef at Girasol Restaurant in Studio City, California. His menu at Girasol is a celebration of seasonal ingredients.