The Truth About Brett Vibber From Big Restaurant Bet

Going into 2022, the co-owners of pop-up Wild Arizona had big plans. As The Arizona Republic detailed in their list of the most anticipated restaurants opening in 2022, they decided now was the time to invest in a brick-and-mortar location. No doubt the $250,000 investment that will go to the winner of "Big Restaurant Bet" would prove welcome. Brett Vibber, one of the co-owners, will be competing on the show.

Wild Arizona is the logical continuation of a career like the one Brett Vibber has had. Talking to the Phoenix New Times in 2011, Vibber recalled, "My mom made everything, I had dinner not out of packages, from scratch every night no matter how busy my mom and dad were." As he grew, he spent his Saturday mornings watching cooking shows and had a job cooking pizza by the time he was fourteen. A Taste of AZ also notes that before settling back in Arizona, Vibber traveled to Italy to see how pizzas were made, through the United States, and to Panama.

These formed the necessary steps of a journeyman though. By 2019, the Phoenix New Times described Vibber as "one of the area's most freewheeling culinary talents." He had just decided to close his restaurant Cartwright's Modern Cuisine to switch to Wild. What made his reputation was his attitude towards foraging and using local ingredients. The majority of the year saw Vibber lead his crew into the Sonoran Desert and Arizona's forests to pick out mushrooms, grapes, and acorns.

Creating roots for a new Arizonian cuisine

Like cooking, foraging came naturally from Brett Vibber's childhood. "My family is all outdoorsy, so every trip I took growing up was camping, hunting, fishing, backpacking," he explained in yet another spotlight published by the Phoenix New Times in September 2020. "I was in Boy Scouts from first to eighth grade, so I was always picking berries or looking for mushrooms in season."

This connection to the Arizonian landscape informs the basis of what has been lauded as the New Arizonian, as cuisine Afar describes as "focused on hyperlocal ingredients that change frequently with Arizona's natural seasons and microclimates." Vibber explained to Afar that every dish that his restaurant Cartwright served included ingredients that had been foraged from the local environment. In practice, this means that the team must forage hundreds of pounds of fruit and then grind or preserve 80% as those ingredients can only be found for a few weeks. Moreover, large portions of the menu are decided on the day as you have to account for what has been brought in. Such conditions not only make for a new cuisine that highlights the flavors a state provides but instill flexibility that should serve Vibber well on "Big Restaurant Bet," hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian.