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Peoria food trailer operator nominated for national competition

Scardina aims for Carla Hall award

Posted 5/21/24

Chef Lee Ann Scardina, known as “Chef Lee,” has been nominated for the “Carla Hall Presents Favorite Chef” award.

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Peoria food trailer operator nominated for national competition

Scardina aims for Carla Hall award


Chef Lee Ann Scardina, known as “Chef Lee,” has been nominated for the “Carla Hall Presents Favorite Chef” award.

With a rich history rooted in culinary traditions, an unwavering commitment to excellence and community service, Scardina stands out as a deserving candidate for this honor, according to a news release.

Her food trailer MaryLee Kitchens can be found at 9889 W. Peoria Ave. As a business owner, she is a member of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce.

The winner will get $25,000, appear on the cover of “Taste of Home,” and cook with celebrity chef Carla Hall.

Scardina’s culinary journey, marked by passion, innovation, and community dedication, makes her an ideal candidate for the “Favorite Chef” award, according to the release. She said winning this prize would enable her to expand her efforts in feeding those in need and continue her mission of culinary excellence and service.

Earlier this year, Scardina and her wife, Mary, launched MaryLee Kitchens, a 23-foot mobile kitchen trailer, producing scratch-made causal gourmet offerings. Their venture quickly gained popularity in the Valley, recognized not only for its culinary excellence but also for its commitment to community service. The business supports local nonprofits, women’s, LGBTQ+, veteran’s assistant programs and donates food to shelters.

Scardina has worked with Aris Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless community.

She said if she wins she would support Aris Foundation.

“I made this commitment to my family when we purchased our food trailer in November of 2023 as a way of giving back for my blessings and finally being able to have my own kitchen,” she said. “I never communicated this to the good people of the Aris Foundation, since it was on my list of things to do, but this contest accelerated my efforts!”

Those interested may vote for Lee here: https://favchef.com/2024/lee-scardina. Free votes can be cast every 24 hours.

Scardina’s love for cooking ignited at the tender age of eight, while assisting her paternal grandmother with pasta making and baking chocolate chip cookies. At 10, a family move to Honolulu, Hawaii introduced Lee to the vibrant flavors of Asian and Polynesian cuisines. Her culinary skills were further honed by helping her mother with baking and cake decorating, influenced by her maternal grandparents’ successful restaurant business.

Her mother, Donna, a self-taught pastry chef and dedicated military wife, inspired Lee with her talent for hosting large events. This early exposure taught Lee the artistry of a perfect butter rose and the importance of teamwork in the kitchen.

Scardina’s first job at McDonald’s at 16 introduced her to commercial cooking. In her early 20s, she moved to Colorado, where she found a role as a baker in Basalt.

Her professional journey progressed as she secured an executive chef position at the Redstone Inn, in Redstone, Colorado until she pursued her formal culinary education at Scottsdale Culinary in Phoenix. Graduating as valedictorian and serving on the student advisory council, Scardina’s career flourished, becoming the first woman executive chef at a resort in Arizona in 1993, the release said.

After a successful career in the kitchen, Scardina set her efforts and completed a bachelor’s degree in international business from Arizona State University, graduating cum laude in 2010, while working full-time, going to school full-time, and running a small video resell business to help pay for her college education, graduating with no college debt.

In 2019, Scardina met her future wife, Mary, at a women’s pinball tournament. Together, they explored culinary delights across the U.S., culminating in the creation of a new product called “Fresh Arizona Pork Roll”, inspired by an Italian wedding in New Jersey.