Cari S. Principal, Event Planning Industry
My husband Phil is a Jacksonville native. We met at Boston College and lived in Boston, Japan, Spain, Australia and Switzerland before returning to the States to get married in St. Augustine. Soon after our wedding Phil got a job in downtown Jacksonville. Before moving to Jacksonville I had never driven a car. We had always lived in dense cities and had never needed a vehicle before moving here. That’s part of what drew us to the Riverside neighborhood, and more specifically 5 Points. We love that we can walk to the grocery store, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, hair salon, etc. We’ve never not loved living in JAX!
State of the Arts and Culture
Northeast Florida has a thriving arts and cultural scene that has such a diversity of artists, musicians, restaurants and more. I love the sense of community we have in our culinary and arts scenes. Folks in our cultural community truly believe that a rising tide raises all ships, and they take a collaborative approach to advancing the cultural landscape here. I’ve tried to be involved in as many culinary, arts and cultural organizations as I can, including UpTempo, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s young professionals group, and the board for JAX Beer Week.
Food for Thought
I have a degree in Gastronomy and initially I wasn’t sure what path my career could take here. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on Northeast Florida’s culinary identity and food culture, but it has grown so much in the past few years. I’d been to these pop-up dinners in other parts of the world, and I noticed there were none in JAX, so I decided this is what I would bring to the table. I host events in places you wouldn’t typically think of as a traditional event venue. This inspired The Legend Series - creating high-end, multi-course, sit-down dining experiences from scratch by bringing in our own electricity, constructing a make-shift kitchen, and dining space.
I recently finished my third cookbook, The Chef’s Canvas, featuring local chefs, in partnership with the Cummer Museum. We asked 70 chefs, mixologists, food truck owners and brewers to walk around the museum’s permanent art collection and find a piece that inspired them. Each person was then asked to create a recipe to go with the selected artwork and an statement that explained how their dish is a culinary expression of the piece they chose.
JAX is the biggest small town in America. Though it is the largest city by landmass, you wouldn’t know it by how accessible leaders and change makers are. They are so willing to meet and leverage their connections and expertise to help make your dreams a reality. I didn’t realize it at the time, but moving to Northeast Florida was the best career move I could have made and I have been able to thrive in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in other cities.