Contributor Spotlight: Marci Symington of TEXAZTASTE
Integral to The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale’s mission is telling the stories behind the small businesses Scouted in each Volume. The story begins in print and continues online, after all. As you peruse Volume 2, we are thrilled to continue our story-telling mission with Contributor Spotlights.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale’s work highlighting the best of the Valley would be far from comprehensive without Marci Symington, author and photographer of the popular food blog, TEXAZTASTE. As our Culinary Contributor, Marci lends her excellent palate and writing to our Dine Like a Local series. In many ways, the series is an extension – a taste, if you will – of TEXAZTASTE, which serves up fresh reads and good eats.
Whether it’s for TEXAZTASTE, Dine Like a Local, or one of her national columns, you’ll find Marci posing the questions. Yet we were fortunate enough to convince her to relinquish her role as interviewer and step into the shoes of interviewee. It was a delightful opportunity to get to know the lady behind the lens (and keyboard) of our favorite food blog, which covered everything from her shift in careers (think cubicle to restaurant booth), exactly why she took that leap, and where’s she’s been eating lately.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: Our readers know your culinary tastes quite well, but not necessarily the woman behind the palate. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Marci Symington: Like many in the Valley, I grew up elsewhere, namely in Texas. I am the youngest of 5 children; our father was a General in the Army and met my mother while stationed in San Antonio. They lived all over the world, and I was born during his last assignment at NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) in Colorado Springs, CO. Although my father was originally from Mississippi, they settled in San Antonio, where my mother was raised, boasting to be a 6th generation Texan. I moved to Arizona to attend graduate school at Thunderbird School of Global Management and met a cute Arizona boy who convinced me to stay. Three children and twenty-five years later, I proudly call Arizona home!
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: Hence the name, TEXAZTASTE! A wonderful nod to your origin. Can you share a little bit about the origin of the blog?
Marci Symington: My husband and I were in Sedona at the Elote Café, enjoying the best of what Sedona has to offer: great margaritas and Chef Jeff Smedstad’s Southwest cuisine in the stunning setting of Red Rock Country. I was taking pictures of the entire weekend, from our hikes to our hotel – L’Auberge de Sedona – to our meals, and was struck by the thought that I wanted to share this with my mother, as we often had this type of exchange with one another. However, she had passed away a year prior. I had spent that year in a fog of grief, and this trip to Sedona was the first time that I had some clarity about the whole experience of being an “orphan.” I had been reading some food and travel blogs and just felt compelled to start my own blog, to continue that conversation and connection with my mom.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: How did you settle on a name?
Marci Symington: Coming up with a name was the hardest part. Ultimately, I felt that no one could really know me unless they understood the fact that being raised in Texas was an integral part of who I am today, even after having spent the last 25 years in Arizona. So, after a day of hiking and with a belly full of enchiladas and tequila, TEXAZTASTE was born.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: You mentioned that you earned an International MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Yet, now you’re a sought-after freelance writer and photographer. That’s quite the shift in trajectory! How did that stark transition begin?
Marci Symington: Working as a CPA introduced me to the local business scene, but I swore off working in a cubicle after enrolling in culinary school. I didn’t know where my career was going, but getting a Degree in Culinary Arts from the Arizona Culinary Institute was a pivotal moment in my life; I knew I had to do something in the culinary world. It was at this time I lost both my parents while raising three small children. Writing for me started as a type of therapy at first, and helped me transition between two different phases of my life.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: Where does TEXAZTASTE come into the picture?
Marci Symington: What started out as essentially a travelog helped me uncover the burgeoning food scene in Arizona. Through social media, I met other bloggers and writers who encouraged me to start honing my photography skills. Invitations to media events started rolling in and the next thing I knew I was labeled an “influencer,” something I had – ironically – never heard of at the time. I met some wonderful people who encouraged me to take my writing to local and national publications. Ultimately my path became clear: writing about the food scene merged my love for the culinary/hospitality industry with my background in business and culinary arts.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: Who are you currently writing for?
Marci Symington: Currently, I am also a contributor for A Taste of AZ – a local publication dedicated to highlighting the best of local food and drink – and have a column called Drinking and Dining from A to Z in The Tasting Panel, a national publication for the wine and spirits industry.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What aspect of your work do you find most fulfilling?
Marci Symington: I love helping people tell their stories. I feel that many don’t realize how inspiring their stories of overcoming obstacles and pursuing their passions can be. I am also struck by the love that each and every one has for Arizona.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: If you could have dinner with one person who would it be?
Marci Symington: Too hard to name just one! Other than reliving one more night with my parents – my dad telling his dirty jokes while my mom swirls her wine, admonishing him – I would have to say a young Ernest Hemingway, like Paris in the ’20s Ernest Hemingway… kind of like a scene out of the movie “Midnight in Paris.”
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: When you’re not writing or dining, where can we find you?
Marci Symington: Either hiking one of Arizona’s amazing hiking trails or in the Texas Hill Country where my sister and I now own what was my mother’s pride and joy, an 1893 restored schoolhouse.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What do you love most about living and working in the Valley?
Marci Symington: Again, it’s hard to name just one thing. I love the people I meet, their passion for this state, and the energy at the local farmers’ markets. I love Fall when the nights cool down as much as I like a hot summer day when the only respite from unrelenting heat is a dunk in the pool. I love that there are so many different microclimates within a 3 hour drive. And I love that Native American culture is honored and respected throughout our cuisine.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: We have a hunch that the next question will be a hard one to narrow down, as well. If you can, will you share your favorite cocktail around town?
Marci Symington: For the full, though ever-evolving list, you must follow me on Instagram or subscribe to The Tasting Panel – especially if you’re asking for my favorite cocktail around town. I will say that I have a soft spot for the margarita at CRUjiente because margaritas are quite possibly the most perfect cocktail ever invented and Chef Hinojosa hails from my beloved San Antonio.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: What about restaurants?
Marci Symington: When it comes to restaurants, I have a few go-to favorites… For date night: FnB or Francine. If I’m with my family, who have very specific tastes (as you can imagine) and are now grown, we celebrate at Tratto or Houston’s when we’re together. For a girls’ lunch? Arcadia Farms or The Henry. And for an al fresco experience: Virtu Honest Craft.
The Scout Guide Phoenix & Scottsdale: You’re, of course, passionate about our culinary scene. But are there any organizations or charities close to your heart?
Marci Symington: Absolutely! I have a special place in my heart for Phoenix Swim Club, where all three of my children had the best coaches and life experiences. I’m also very passionate about The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as my mother passed away from leukemia. I also serve on the board of Arizona Women’s Board, an organization committed to the prevention of kidney disease through awareness, education, and research. Their Authors Luncheon is my favorite event of the year.
For more fabulous, insider-approved culinary recommendations and reviews, follow along with Marci Symington of TEXAZTASTE on Instagram. There, you’ll find ample inspiration for your next meal out, no matter what you’re craving. Don’t forget to tell her Scout sent you!