By Amy Edelen
A trip to Costa Rica and the Phoenix street food scene inspired Eddie Castillo, co-owner of AZ Food Crafters to create a food item similar to empanadas -- the baked hand pies gaining popularity in these parts.
Castillo, who is an artist in addition to chef, was involved in art shows at local farmers markets when he first took notice of the street food scene.
"I watched food vendors. I saw what was happening," he says. "I wanted to do something unique with food."
Castillo comes from an extensive culinary background, having worked in kitchens for more than 30 years and attended Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He dabbled with various dishes and worked at resort catering companies while doing art on the side.
Due to changes in the economy, Castillo made the switch from art and along with partner Mike Caliendo, the duo started AZ Food Crafters in 2011 and began selling their baked hand pies at farmers markets.
By January of this year, Castillo and Caliendo had expanded to their own brick-and-mortar store in Chandler.
"This is my canvas here, where my creative side comes out," he says. "I think about the food visually and how it's going to taste."
AZ Food Crafters features both dessert and meat-filled hand pies made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients and a flaky, pastry style crust.
Castillo is a new-comer to Pie Social this year and is looking forward to showcasing his hand pies at the event.
"I read about it last year," he says. "As soon as it came up again, I said I got to be in that."