Dinner with Zak and Mac: an evening with Chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Beau MacMillan
For the past ten years now, the Sanctuary Resort’s chef Beau MacMillan has been hosting “Lunch and Learn” at his Elements restaurant inside the resort in Paradise Valley, AZ. If you have never stayed or at least visited the Sanctuary Resort, it is highly recommended. It certainly doesn’t get the same notoriety as other mega-resorts in the valley, but I think they like it that way. It is very private, secluded, and intimate in the sense of its scale. If you want to go and be seen, maybe even check out the latest advances in plastic surgery – show up at the W hotel in Scottsdale. However, if you want a retreat, to relax and recharge at – head to the Sanctuary. Situated on the north side of Camelback Mountain Its styling is a cross between modern and contemporary architectural features. Upon check in we were informed that they had overbooked their Mountain Casitas so they had to upgrade us to their private residence. So instead of a $160 a night hotel room, we had a 3 bedroom, 4 bath, mansion complete with its own private pool, tennis courts, cedar lined sauna, and work out room. It was kind of like winning the lottery as the place normally rents for upwards of $2,000 a night in the high season.
Getting back to “Lunch and Learn”… for starters the word lunch is sort of a misnomer as they offer a “Dinner” and learn on Friday evenings and a “Lunch” and learn on Saturdays Dinner on Friday retails for $150 per person and the lunch on Saturday is $75 per person. What do you get for plunking down all these rupees? A fantastic dinner cooked by a world class chef followed afterwards by a one on one Q&A session. In our case Geoffrey Zakarian: the proprietor and chef at the Lambs Club in NY; and Food Network personality (think the tough judge on “Chopped”). Zakarian prepared a four course meal, and plied us with copious amounts of paired wines.
Due to Beau MacMillan’s growing respect and notoriety in the culinary world he has been enabled to attract more and more of his peers to fly out to Phoenix and participate in his Lunch and Learn program. On the all star list for this summer, in addition to Geoffrey Zakarian, is Robert Irvine (of “Dinner Impossible”), Marcus Samuelsson (of the Food Network, Harlem’s Red Rooster, and guest chef to the White House), the producers from “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, and local acclaimed chefs Aaron May and Matt Carter. The program is just as much a lesson for dinner guests as it is for MacMillan’s staff to learn, collaborate and share in techniques with their peers.
Now we have dined at Elements on several occasions, but this “Lunch and Learn” experience is totally different. First of all the dining room and view at Elements is something else – million dollar views of the valley, and top notch service. But for this event you dine at “Table 12”, a private 12 top dining room lined with wine bottles on one side, and sliding wall-to-wall glass doors looking on into the kitchen line on the other side. So you are watching Zakarian prepare your meal as you are dining on his first course. Its like sitting in the audience at an Iron Chef episode watching Zakarian, MacMillan and his team prepare your meal.
MacMillan makes his guests feel like a million bucks in every aspect of the experience from the: attentiveness of his front of the house staff; the caliber of the visiting chefs he invites; the quality of the food; to the one on one conversation – complete with his experiences working on shows for the Food Network, to all night benders in the Bronx. Everyone who can afford it, especially those who live in the valley, should try and make at least a once a year experience at MacMillan’s “Lunch and Learn” at the Sanctuary.In the below video Chefs Zakarian and MacMillan discuss the aspects of working in their restaurants versus TV, and the way Food Network has changed their business.