By Katie Chatham
Today we are living in a time when environmental awareness and the efforts towards sustainability are on the rise. To acknowledge and honor these movements, entire communities have taken action by doing things like banning plastic bags and straws, and encouraging everyone to shop and eat locally. The community of Prescott stands alongside many others that encourage these movements.
One local eatery stands out when it comes to the efforts taken to realize the ideas of sustainability and sourcing locally. BiGA, a restaurant in the heart of Prescott, has gone to great lengths to ensure that the food served is sourced locally and raised in an environmentally conscious manner. From the structure of the building, to the leftovers, everything has been thought out carefully and has our Earth and our community at heart. Much of the structure of BiGA was built from repurposed wood and metal in an effort toward sustainability. And what about the food you leave on your plate? The servers place it into a receptacle to take back to the chickens at the farms where that very food was grown—it all comes around, full circle.
BiGA’s owners, Chef John Panza and Cassandra Hankison, have been working in the industry for years, and came together to start a “pop-up”style dining and catering business called Senses back in July of 2016. At the heart of the Senses dining experience were meals that were crafted with expertise using locally sourced food. When they had the opportunity to take over BiGA in May of 2017, they dedicated themselves to bringing our community food that is fresh in an environment that feels modern, and sourcing as many items as possible from local businesses and farms. The idea of “farm to fork” is one that is close to John’s and Cassandra’s hearts. They take pride in knowing that the items served on the tables in their restaurant have come straight from the farms of our community. Food is grown and sourced from over 10 local farms and businesses including Whipstone Farm, Hassayampa Vineyard and Farm, Broken Horn D Ranch, and so many more. John and Cassandra spend their Saturday mornings at the Prescott Farmers Market hand selecting the very best ingredients for each entrée.
John not only co-owns the restaurant, but he is also the restaurant’s head chef. He puts care and thought into the selection of the ingredients that go into each dish, and just as much care and thought into where those items come from. Chef John got his degree at Scottsdale Community College, and has spent the majority of his adulthood refining his craft. But truly, he was born with the talent and craftsmanship it takes to create the dishes he thoughtfully puts together.
It had always been Chef John’s dream to open a restaurant, and when the opportunity presented itself to take over ownership of BiGA, he and Cassie couldn’t say no. When they purchased the restaurant last year, Prescott already had some great dining establishments, but in the area of “farm to fork,” or “farm to table,” not many represented this movement. Chef John fell in love with the local Farmers Market and felt he could bring different communities together through the use of local ingredients to create really good food.
Chef John has created a menu that reflects his expertise and spotlights our local farms. Naturally, as the seasons change, so does the menu. And in an effort to keep things fresh and exciting, items are changed on the menu weekly. This also allows our local farms to shine in the spotlight. Another way Chef John and Cassie are spotlighting our local farms and vendors is through holiday celebrations. BiGA is open on most holidays, and features a fine dining experience by reservation. Similar to these experiences are the “family-style” pop-up dinners John and Cassie host through their second business, Senses. Each event features a myriad of local foods, wines, and cocktails, and is an experience that brings the community together. Everyone at BiGA takes pride in the local partnerships and relationships formed, and hopes that you have the very best experience in what is fresh, modern, and local.
Katie Chatham is a Northern Arizona University graduate of 2012 with a BS in Journalism and Public Relations.
BiGA is located at 623 Miller Valley Road in Prescott. They are open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 9:00pm. For more information about the restaurant you can follow BiGA by Senses on social media. For information on Family Dinners, visit the website squareup.com/store/senses.