By Niki D’Andrea
Restaurateur Sam Fox hosts Phoenix’s first No Kid Hungry Dinner
Sam Fox is synonymous with big numbers. The CEO of Fox Restaurant Concepts has 16 concepts in 60 locations across more than 10 states. There are six FRC locations in the Scottsdale Airpark area alone. In 2014, he was named to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List of the 50 most influential people in the industry. He’s been nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Restaurateur of the Year Award nine times, but has yet to win.
You could associate him with just big things, in general. Big ideas. A big smile. A big heart. Fox, an Arcadia resident, is a lifetime member of the Thunderbirds charitable organization and consistently contributes time, resources and money to local organizations in his Phoenix neighborhood, like the Boys & Girls Clubs, Audubon Arizona and Phoenix Arcadia Rotary Club. Through a fundraiser at his Flower Child restaurants, he helped Arcadia High School plant a new campus garden.
His company has also been a longtime supporter of the national No Kid Hungry campaign, which inspired the upcoming first No Kid Hungry dinner in Phoenix, slated for October 16 at Fox’s Culinary Dropout at The Yard in Tempe. “We’ve been doing things for the last couple years where we raise money in the restaurants, and we’ve given money to the national campaign. And that’s how we’ve been supporting it,” Fox says. “But this is the first year where the campaign has been in Arizona and where all the money will stay in Arizona.”
The No Kid Hungry dinner will feature food from Fox Restaurant Concepts chef Chris Curtiss with guest chefs Aaron Chamberlin (Phoenix Public Market Café, St. Francis), Scott Holmes (Little Miss BBQ), Jason Raducha (Noble Bread), Doug Robson (Gallo Blanco, Otro Cafe) and Chris Newstrom of Upward Projects. Fox will host the event, which begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. A three-course dinner and live auction follows at 7.
“All the money we’re raising, 100 percent of it is being donated to local organizations, so every penny we get, the money will stay here to grow local organizations,” Fox says. “We’re supplying all the food, all the labor, the facilities, plus also raising a whole bunch of money through tickets for the event. It’s a great event, and the dollars are going to go a long way because we don’t have any expenses to pass on. We hope people get behind it. We’re getting close to two-thirds of the way sold out already, which is good, and this is something we hope to do again and support for a long time.”
“We have a passion for this and an obligation to give back to the community,” he continues. “This is a great event and a great charity that a lot of chefs support, and we’re proud to be part of it.”
Fox, 49, has been an Arizona resident since his family moved to Tucson from Chicago when he was 5. He’s lived in Phoenix for more than two decades with his wife, Emily, and their children Noah, 12, and Chloe, 10. He’s been part of a culinary community almost all his life, as well. His father was a restaurateur and opened The Hungry Fox, which still operates in Tucson under different ownership. In 1998, Sam Fox opened his first restaurant, Wildflower American Cuisine, in Tucson.
Nineteen years later, his epicurean empire has propagated faster than rumors on the internet. There are six Fox concepts around the Airpark alone – True Food Kitchen, Juby True, Flower Child, The Greene House, Zinburger and North Italia. And while the old joke about asking an artist to name their favorite creation is like asking a parent to name their favorite child may hold metaphorically true for some, Fox can easily name a few of his favorites dishes: edamame dumplings at True Food Kitchen, the smoked salmon appetizer at The Greene House, white truffle garlic bread at North Italia.
Explaining why the Airpark is prime placement for a cluster of his concepts, Fox says, “It’s got a great demographic. There are a lot of families that live up north, and there’s also a great mix of business and tourism, as well. So we have incredible support from our locals, whether it’s DC Ranch, McDowell Mountain Ranch, Fountain Hills, all the way up to over by Desert Ridge – we have a good footprint of our local guests supporting us on a regular basis.”
“When you mix that in with the daily business needs that the Airpark provides for the community, and then also the great tourism – the Kierlands, the Scottsdale Quarters, all the great retail and golf that’s in the area, as well… it just has a great, dynamic mixture of regulars, locals, businesspeople and tourism.”
He hopes people from all over metro Phoenix, including Scottsdale, make the trek to Tempe for the No Kid Hungry event. “We’re trying to raise a bunch of money,” Fox says. “We’re selling tables and sponsorships and it’s going really, really well. We’ve reached out to a lot of our best clients, our vendors, some friends of mine, my bank. I brought in a lot of people that I do business with. So I think we’re gonna raise a lot of money. We had a goal of $25,000 and I think we’re already up to $50,000. We’re really excited about the support we’re getting from people in the community.”
For more information about Fox Restaurant Concepts, visit frc.com. For more information about the No Kid Hungry dinner in Phoenix, visit nokidhungry.org/Phoenix.