Chandler bloggers are Valley’s only nominees for James Beard Awards - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler bloggers are Valley’s only nominees for James Beard Awards

May 9th, 2017 development
Chandler bloggers are Valley’s only nominees for James Beard Awards

By Mike Butler

Although top Valley chefs were snubbed by this year’s James Beard awards, a Chandler couple is in the running for one of the prestigious 2017 Media Awards.

Michelle Jacoby and Mark Lipczynski, former Arizona Republic staffers who publish a blog called Bite: Eat, Drink, Wander, are finalists for Best Video Webcast, on Location, for producing “Elements.”

The 17-minute film is a series of six video shorts that explores how Arizona chefs and other local food and drink artisans incorporate elements of nature into their work.

“Air,” for example, captures the passion of Derrick Shields, the official beekeeper at The Farm at Agritopia. In “Smoke,” Chef Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar in Tempe showcases his latest inspiration and flavors using unique smoking techniques.

Elements was filmed by Andrew Gooi, a nine-year resident of the Valley who recently moved to Seattle.

Jacoby and Lipczynski approached Gooi after viewing his film “Binkley’s,” the legendary restaurant that opened in Cave Creek in 2004. He had also created a stunning video portrait of chef Nobuo Fukuda, awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2007.

“He’s a very genuine and authentic person and that comes through in his work,” said Lipczynski, who handles still photography for the creative team’s projects.

The James Beard Media Awards are just as big a deal as the food/restaurant awards. They’re a feather in the cap for cookbook authors, TV shows, magazine heavyweights such as The New Yorker and Saveur, and up-and-coming bloggers.

When Jacoby and Gooi take their seats at the awards ceremony at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York on April 25 (they were given only two tickets), they might be rubbing elbows with celebrity chefs Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Lidia Bastianich or Ina Garten, who are finalists in their various video categories.

“Us just being in that room – it’s pretty incredible,” Jacoby said. “We thought they’d never notice us. We’re just three people with a camera.”

“It still hasn’t registered,” Lipczynski added.

Jacoby and Lipczynski received their first validation that Bite was on the right track last year when they were in contention for Saveur’s annual Blog Award, an international competition.

They met when she became editor of the Republic’s AZ Magazine and he became its principal photographer. They grew intensely interested in Arizona’s food scene, and each other, and married two years ago.

After the excitement of the James Beard Awards dies down, Jacoby said, Bite will turn its lens on a new series called “In Food We Trust,” which celebrates immigrant restaurant owners and makers.

The two are also planning a visit to Brazil to do a feature on the Peixoto family coffee farm.

“Our mission is to tell the story behind the story,” Jacoby said.

The film “Elements” and other stories can be viewed at and Gooi’s “Food Talkies” is also nominated for Visual and Technical Excellence.