How Spring Breakers, Kyrsten Synema, Yavapai College and Earth Month Helped Me Appreciate Sedona Restaurants



April 2, 2021

mesa_grill_sedonaLet’s start with spring breakers.  Have you had to wait for a table the last few weeks?  Me, too. Our restaurants have been jammed with spring breakers discovering our fantastic food scene.

It is refreshing to see our eateries so busy again. Sedona’s restaurants and restauranteurs – some of our most committed civic citizens – have suffered COVID’s devastation disproportionately and for too long. Yes, it is inconvenient to wait, but we’re lucky Sedona offers such a range of cuisine, cultural experiences, and variety – and that so many of our restaurants have survived to cook another day.

Federal Grants Will Help

The industry is not out of the woods, however. Fortunately, they are are getting a remarkably strings-free boost in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act to the tune of $26.8 billion in direct grants.  The funds go to independent restaurants, defined as not being part of a group with more than 20 locations, which in Sedona’s case, is almost all.

The money – a  forgivable grant, not an interest-bearing loan  – can cover payroll, benefits, mortgages, rent, utilities, maintenance, supplies, protective equipment, cleaning materials, food, paid sick leave – any essential expense. Caterers and taprooms, brewpubs and tasting rooms are eligible, too.  Industry groups say the grants could be available as early as this month.

It is called ‘The Restaurant Relief Fund’ and it is based on the RESTAURANT Act, first introduced last year with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema as a co-sponsor.

Local Jobs for Local People – Educators Respond

Millions find careers in restaurant management and culinary arts very satisfying, and Sedona is a great place to do it. Yavapai College is preparing interested young people for a start in the industry and last week, I saw how they do it.

Yavapai College Associate VP for Strategic Initiatives Dr. James Perey and Associate Dean Linda Shook showed me around the Yavapai College Culinary Arts Program. Students learn to make stocks and sauces, handle equipment safely, fabricate meat, fish and poultry into delicious meals, and master the fundamentals of kitchen and food service operations.

Program Director Robert Barr, an award-winning chef with 40 years’ experience on two continents, and Chef Javier Franco, a Four Seasons alum who owns Layla’s bakery, supervise the instruction. If you’re interested in a food service career, local young person, this is the program for you!

Restaurants are Showing the Way, Environmentally

By recycling food waste, going straw-free, reducing energy use or patronizing local growers, our restaurants are sustainability leaders (including Layla’s). More than 20 of the 100+ local certified sustainable businesses are restaurants, and I am proud that many are Chamber members.

Many people ask how they can act sustainably in daily life.  It’s easy to start, and small steps add up to a big impact. Practice home recycling, do an energy audit, or give an hour a month to a cause, such as trail maintenance or trash cleanup.  Looking for ideas? has plenty.

Part of our job is sending a strong sustainability messages to visitors during Earth Month, engaging our websites, social media platforms and the Visitor Center. We’re asking visitors to act: sign the Sedona Cares Pledge, learn the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace, volunteer, and be mindful of their impact.  Post-COVID travelers say they are more sensitized to their destinations and want to give back. We’re taking advantage by sharing our expectations. Check out how we’re doing it at

Walk & Talk walk-and-talk-250x200

See you Wednesday, April 7 at Big Park Loop Trail for my monthly Walk & Talk at 4 p.m. Bring your ideas about traffic, trash and pressure on our precious trails, along with water and a hat! Looking forward to it.

-Candace Carr Strauss,