In the September issue of Arizona Foothills Magazine, we unveiled the top 11 chefs in the Valley based on votes by dozens of most talented local culinary luminaries. Here, we reveal each chef’s complete Q & A. Get to know chef Beau MacMillan of elements at Sanctuary on Camelback.
Have the culinary arts always been your passion?
Yes, I was one of the lucky guys who knew early on in life that I had found something that I was going to be a part of. I can’t imagine doing anything else, which is why I still love it today.
Tell me about your first culinary job.
My first culinary job came when I was 17. I say that because I was working in restaurants from the age of 14 but mostly local restaurants doing short order cooking so nothing too fancy right away. I applied for a position at the Crane Brook Restaurant in Carver, Massachusetts and ended up getting the job. For me, that job changed my life forever. I worked under a master chef named Francois De Melogue and I tasted food that, at that age, I never imaged could taste so great. I truly felt that it transcended my relationship with food and I knew if I could be half as good as Chef Francois, I could be somebody.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I can answer that in two parts: I still love the creative freedom and the cooking above all else, but I also enjoy the ability to build relationships with our guests at elements. Having the ability to reach people on a different level through food is an awesome part of my job and I enjoy doing it every day.
What is your tastiest dish?
That question to me is so subjective because food is one of life’s most sensual pleasures. We each have our own flavorprint so I can’t speak for everyone because we all taste things differently, but on our current menu my favorite dish today is our fire-roasted oysters.
What are your thoughts on the Valley dining scene?
I’ve always been a huge supporter of what we do here in the Valley’s food scene. Over the years I’ve built many relationship with great chefs that live and work in the area so I’m very proud to call this place my home. I wouldn’t trade it for any city. My only comment is that it’s hard to keep up. There is always something new going on and for that I’m thankful but I need to remind myself to always get out there and explore what’s new, locally.
What inspires your dishes?
Ingredients, life, women, music, seasons.
How to you keep creative in the kitchen?
I think you have to try and think like your guests would think; I study, I observe, I listen and I feel like I have an understanding of what my clientele wants and needs at elements. We’re serving approachable food that has recognizable ingredients. I think that formula alone gives us a platform to use our own creativity as we want. Also, I’m surrounded by a team of talented culinarians here at elements and I rely on them a lot.
Get to know another one of the Valley’s Top Chefs, Cullen Campbell of Crudo.