He appeared on The Today Show and Top Chef Masters, dated talk show diva Star Jones and rubs elbows with the likes of Anthony Bourdain. Still, Herb Wilson refuses to think of himself as a “celebrity” chef. “I would never attach that connotation to my name. We’re all just cooks,” he quips. A gypsy at heart, Wilson attended New York’s Culinary Institute of America (aka the “Harvard of cooking schools”) before whisking off to work under Gérard Pangaud in France. Afterward, he did executive chef stints at Le Refuge and Bull Run Restaurant in his native Manhattan, and Latin-Asian trailblazer Sushi Samba in Las Vegas. The bi-continental expertise he cultivated in Vegas will serve Wilson well in his latest adventure: partnering with restaurateur German Osio to launch East-West fusion eatery Sumo Maya in Scottsdale. The restaurant opened in early April.
Arizona Diamondbacks star
Paul Goldschmidt, aka “America’s First Baseman,” hardly seemed destined for stardom. Ignored by major college baseball programs out of high school, the 6’3” Texas State product fell all the way to the eighth round before the Diamondbacks scooped him up in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, and batted a pedestrian .250 his rookie season. But “Goldie” was stellar in 2013, hitting .302, blasting 36 home runs and placing second in National League MVP voting. The Scottsdale resident, 26, is known not just for his slugging and stout glovesmanship, but for his philanthropy, which has included Christmas shopping with disadvantaged youth and presenting a $100,000 check to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Scottsdale native Brianna "Brie" Garcia-Colace has dropkicked, kneed and clotheslined her way into the upper echelon of World Wrestling Entertainment. She's used a little twin magic to get there – Brie is one half of the Bella Twins, along with her sister and tag-team partner Nicole (aka Nikki, who lives out of state). Garcia-Colace made her WWE debut in 2008, earned her first Divas Championship in 2011, and in March 2013, she and her sister joined the cast of E! Network reality show Total Divas. The show's first season captured Brie's real-life relationship with WWE superstar Bryan Danielson (ring name: Daniel Bryan), who popped the big question on the season finale. With the second season of Total Divas premiering this month, her Arizona wedding to Danielson slated for April and a second Divas Championship in her sights, 2014 is looking bright.
Author and Adventurer
Even in today’s world of GPS and Google Earth, there’s a bounty of unexplored territory in our backyard. Five years after probing the Grand Canyon’s least-traveled slots using the techniques of canyoneering – which variously combines climbing, rappelling, hiking and swimming – Todd Martin netted a 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for his self-published tome Grand Canyoneering: Exploring the Rugged Gorges and Secret Slots of the Grand Canyon. The 50-year-old Pittsburgh native turned Ahwatukee resident says he’s always been interested in the outdoors, since he was a kid who would bring home snakes from his exploits, and he continues to discover cool Arizona outdoors spots while developing his passion for photography. Martin, a Maricopa County air quality engineer who holds master’s degrees in electrical and environmental engineering, is also featured in the 23-minute festival film The Last of the Great Unknown. Find information about his growing media empire at toddshikingguide.com.
Gaming guru and star wars scribe
Since moving to the Valley in 1979, Vermont-reared game developer and author Michael Stackpole has carved out quite a niche in the realms of fantasy and sci-fi, penning New York Times best-selling novels set in the Star Wars universe, popular BattleTech-based books, and most recently, books based on the game World of Warcraft. Despite his penchant for penning all things alien and fantastical, the frequent Phoenix Comicon panelist takes his real-life exotica with a grain of salt – since 1988, he’s also been on the board of the Phoenix Area Skeptic Society (formerly the Phoenix Skeptics), a group dedicated to promoting critical thinking and debunking conspiracies and myths. He can frequently be found signing stacks of his books at places like The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale.
stage combat instructor
Andrea Robertson loves a good fight. Not the improvised scrapping you might see on a playground or in a boxing ring, but the kind that plays out in dark theaters and dimly-lit auditoriums. Robertson teaches stage combat, which she defines as a choreographed fight that tells a story but is safe for the actors and looks realistic to the audience. “It’s telling a story through violence,” she says. Robertson stages fights using a variety of weapons as well as basic hand-to-hand combat.
As a theater major at Western Illinois University, Robertson enrolled in an Elizabethan weaponry class and learned to use a rapier and dagger. “It felt like home,” she says. And so, a career was born.
Maestro Michael Christie joined the Phoenix Symphony eight years ago and promptly coined his own magical mix of music and multi-media theater. Christie – whose resumé includes stints with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in Australia – introduced Arizona audiences to the works of numerous living composers and the now-popular Intermission Insights, a halftime Q&A with featured musicians.