Your Ticket to Nirvana

Writer Shoshana Leon
Photography Courtesy of Debby Wolvos and Sanctuary Resort and Spa

You may recognize Valley Chef Beau MacMillan from one of his many appearances on Food Network, from judging and competing on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” to famously beating Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America” in 2006.

In person, Chef MacMillan is just like he is on television—warm, engaging and larger than life. If you run into the New England native at the Sanctuary Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley where he is the executive chef, he will greet you like an old friend. 

After graduating from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, Chef MacMillan’s goal was to learn from as many of the best restaurants and chefs as he could, which took him from Boca Raton, Florida to Los Angeles. 

In 1998, a consultant moved him to Arizona to develop the cuisine at the Ranch on Camelback, which later became Sanctuary. 

“I never thought I would move or take a job here,” he said. “Within four hours of being here, my mindset completely changed and it was the best decision I ever made in my life.”

Working at Sanctuary for more than two decades, Chef MacMillan has experienced the transformation of Arizona’s culinary scene firsthand. 

“I’ve seen young cooks grow into chefs. I’ve seen the opening of many independent artisan-style restaurants. I’ve seen a city where the best restaurants used to be in hotels but now has independent restaurants thriving. Scottsdale has become a food and beverage destination and I am honored to be a part of it all,” he said.

Besides his “Iron Chef” victory and earning national accolades for Sanctuary and its Jade Bar, one of Chef MacMillan’s career highlights is creating the Nirvana Food and Wine Festival. 

“The Nirvana Food and Wine Festival was something the Sanctuary team always wanted to do. We wanted to put a festival together where we could showcase the best that food and wine has to offer here in Arizona, and humbly be the hosts,” said Chef MacMillan. 

“I have traveled so much over the past 20 years and have been to some amazing culinary festivals, and was inspired to do one here. I wanted to showcase the amazing culinarians and mixologists that we have here in Arizona, while also featuring music and winemakers from around the country. I wanted to give our supportive community a memorable culinary experience.”

This vision came to life in April 2017 when the inaugural Nirvana Food and Wine Festival debuted, and it has continued to grow. 

“The first two years of Nirvana exceeded all my expectations,” said Chef MacMillan. “When you have incredible sponsors and partners, it really makes a world of difference. We want the people attending the events to feel special, to have fun and enjoy all the things that are offered. We also want that for all the people involved internally. 

“Nirvana takes about nine months to produce. It is an incredible amount of work, but the greatest payoff is seeing people enjoying themselves and who feel grateful to be a part of it.”

The 2019 Nirvana Food and Wine Festival takes placed April 24 through April 28. The festival includes a variety of theme events with celebrated local chefs like Matt Carter and Christopher Gross, as well as celebrity chefs such as Robert Irvine, Scott Conant, Jose Garces and Marc Murphy, and renowned mixologists from the Valley and across the country.

While the Nirvana Food and Wine Festival takes place at a luxury resort with celebrity chefs, the event remains approachable with delicious food, tasty cocktails, great music and interesting people in a lively and fun atmosphere. 

“Guests can expect to eat and drink well, laugh a lot, listen to amazing music and enjoy the overall experience,” said Chef MacMillan. “One thing that makes Nirvana special is our events are very intimate. Attendees can make connections with people, chefs, mixologists and winemakers. There are no long lines and the festival has a very cool musical component.”

Two new events have been added to this year’s Nirvana Food and Wine Festival.

“This year our newest event is Wood, Wine and Wagyu. Chefs will be cooking family-style over open wood flames in front of guests with live entertainment, a celebrity mixologist and a lot of great interaction. Also new is our first-ever late-night event at Fat Ox, which will be hosted by Matt Carter with celebrity chefs and mixologists. 

“This year’s festival will have lots of surprises,” said Chef MacMillan.

A portion of the proceeds from the Nirvana Food and Wine Festival benefit the Careers through Culinary Arts program (C-CAP), a nonprofit organization that prepares underserved high school students for careers in the culinary and hospitality industries through training and scholarships.

Although he has been on numerous television shows, cooked at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, and has worked in high-end fine dining restaurants, Chef MacMillan is a down-to-earth guy who loves food, music and fun, and his passion and positivity are key to making Nirvana so successful.

Nirvana crowd favorites include: 

Flutes and Coops pairs fried chicken dishes with champagne, and is hosted by celebrity chef Todd English

Best of the West, a sampling of the Valley’s best cuisine and cocktails, hosted by Food Network personality Scott Conant, owner of Mora Italian in Phoenix

Bourbon Street Blues, a Mardi Gras-style celebration with live music, New Orleans bites and cocktail creations hosed by “Chopped” judge Marc Murphy

Rosé Parté features rose pairings at the Wrigley Mansion with Valley Chef Christopher Gross, celebrity chef Robert Irvine and the Bella Twins of WWE fame

Tequila and Tortillas, Nirvana’s farewell brunch hosted by Iron Chef Jose Garces

Celebrity golf tournament hosted by the Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella

Master of Taste dinners, intimate culinary gatherings that pair top chefs with notable winemakers

Nirvana Food and Wine Festival Events

Wood, Wine and Wagyu
April 24, 7–10 p.m. | Tickets: $225

Master of Taste 1
April 24, 7–10 p.m. | Tickets: $350

Bourbon Street Blues
April 24, 7–10 p.m. | Tickets: $135

Master of Taste 2
April 24, 7–10 p.m. | Tickets: $350

Flutes and Coops
April 26, 6:30–7:15 p.m. VIP/7:15–10 p.m. General Admission | Tickets: $225 VIP/ $150 General Admission

Master of Taste 3
April 26, 7–10 p.m. | Tickets: $500

Nirvana After Party at Fat Ox
April 26, 10:30 p.m.–12:30 a.m. | Tickets: $125

Celebrity Golf Tournament at Mountain Shadows
April 27, 8:00 a.m. registration | Fee: $400 per player

Rosé Parté at Wrigley Mansion
April 27, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. | Tickets: $150

Best of the West
April 27, 6:30–7:15 p.m. VIP/7:15–10 p.m. General Admission | Tickets: $250 VIP/$175 General Admission

Master of Taste 4
April 27, 7–10 p.m. | Tickets: $500

Tequila and Tortillas
April 28, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. | Tickets: $150

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