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Homegrown chef's latest offering: a riverfront farmers market
Alex Trujillo is a homegrown culinary product. Which is only fitting since the latest venture for this talented chef is the Sunrise Farmers Market, a weekly showcase for other Yuma culinary products that's set to kick off Oct. 21.
The weekly market will operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday on the green and grassy grounds of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot and continue through May. Admission is free.
“This is just something Yuma needs, a true farmers market where people can buy fresh local produce and specialty products made here,” Trujillo said of the venture, which he has been working to make a reality since last winter.
What's on the menu for the new venue? The lineup is growing, Trujillo said, but already includes heirloom tomatoes from Hillside Farms, herbs from Yuma Organics and goat cheese, fudge and artisanal soaps made by Suzanne and Bob Eaton of Toggenburg Goats of Arizona. Trujillo also hopes to offer local honey, dates and date products, smoothies and fresh fruit waters, homemade pastries and other Yuma “home cooking.”
“Tamales? Sure, I love tamales, but it's got to be a really great tamale!” said Trujillo, who recently left a position as executive chef at the Quechan Casino Resort to concentrate on the farmers market and his other new business, Catering by Design.
“We want to offer things with local flavors and have a farmers market Yuma can be proud of.”
Born and raised here, Trujillo graduated from Yuma High in 1998 and headed off to the culinary program at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale. He was hired straight from the famed cooking school to work at the Four Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, where he spent about 2-1/2 years. Still with Four Seasons, he enjoyed a year in the foodie mecca of San Francisco, then seven more years cooking for high rollers in Las Vegas.
So what motivated a Yuma kid to sauté his way to the culinary heights of the Four Seasons?
“It's what I always wanted to do … as a young kid my mind was made up that I wanted to be a chef. My grandmother was a chef in her own right, cooking for over 30 years in just about every restaurant there was at the time in Yuma, including the Stardust Hotel. My first job at 15 years old was busing tables for my Aunt Rosa at Jack & Rosie's. I loved it!”
And his return home? Trujillo “never really planned to be in Yuma,” but when he heard about the opening of The Q from his mother, that changed. He joined the team that opened the new resort. During his tenure there, he helped to launch Yuma's gala Harvest Dinner, part of the annual “ag week” that includes the Southwest Ag Summit and Yuma Lettuce Days.
The same kind of vision inspires him now, Trujillo said: Creating a showcase for local products and an authentic experience for the community — “just something nice to do on a Sunday with the family.”
That why he's also planning to offer musical entertainment and to invite other local chefs to join him at the market for live cooking demonstrations.
“We will go through the market and pick up items and then show people what they can do with them right there. The point of the demonstration will be to show people how easy it is to cook fresh and eat well — and maybe they'll try something new.”
He's confident that the market will be a growing success throughout the season as word of mouth gets out to both vendors and customers.
(Got produce or other Yuma-made goodies to sell? Go to www.yumafarmersmarket.com or call Trujillo at 782-0063 for more information.)
But in the meantime, Trujillo looks upon his experience as “giving back — it's nice to be able to bring that five-diamond experience and knowledge back to Yuma.”
“Being able to cook for people and creating memorable experiences, it truly is my passion. There aren't very many people in the world who can say they absolutely love what they do, but I can!”
He continued: “Every day is a constant learning experience, whether I'm trying a new recipe or out experiencing the culinary world. Being a chef means creating and tasting, eating and drinking, trying new foods that some might stay away from, how great is that?”
Sounds like a made-in-Yuma recipe for success!
Ann Walker is a writer for the Yuma Visitors Bureau. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 376-0100.