Beau MacMillan Chases Nirvana

Chef Beau MacMillan


Beau’s brainchild, Nirvana Food & Wine Festival, returns for its second year.



It’s a shame when you meet someone in real life who is nothing like their television personality. Luckily for Executive Chef Beau MacMillan, he is the same sweet, goofy, talented, and incredibly likable character on-screen as he is off-screen.

BeauMac (as some call him) is the kind of guy you feel like you can be buds with. A bud with an incredible flair for fine dining that is. As Executive Chef at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, MacMillan has quite the laundry list of well-deserved accolades behind him. He’s a Food Network regular and took a turn on Iron Chef America where he beat Bobby Flay; he hosted Worst Cooks in America and also appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games. And there’s also the long list of A-listers he has cooked for.

So what’s a notable chef with a laundry list of accomplishments to do? Bring an all-star team of talent to the Valley of the Sun for an aptly-named food festival: Nirvana.

“It’s my 20th year at Sanctuary, I’ve gotten to do some amazing things and have always dreamed of bringing something back to the Valley that could be a destination drive and really showcase all the talent that we have here,” MacMillan says.

Nirvana is in its second year, taking place April 19-22, 2018 at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. The lineup is mouthwatering: 73 top chefs from the U.S. and Canada are attending and each night brings with it a new theme.

The crowd at Nirvana Food & Wine Festival 2017

The crowd at Nirvana Food & Wine Festival 2017

Bourbon Street kicks off the culinary event, a New Orleans-themed evening with live jazz music and optional masquerade attire. “All the chefs are doing a dish that pays homage,” MacMillan says. “Down in the pool, there will be a guy on stilts doing fire, a tarot card reader, Mardi Gras beads—it’s going to be awesome.”

While the entertainment side is “beefed up” this year, the showcase, of course, is the food and drinks by serious culinary talent.

“I want to include everyone I can locally. I’m so overwhelmed with the support I have on a national level to have this caliber of chefs come on a friendship. But I truly believe the success I had in year one was due to all the homegrown talent in the Valley, the guys slinging it day in and day out. This is why people came; it’s their community.”


“Nirvana is such a tremendous event on all levels: Beautiful setting, well-run, wonderful foodie crowd”


Aside from Nirvana, MacMillan also hosts several culinary events throughout the year at Sanctuary and changes the menu seasonally at Elements. It takes plenty of time and planning for it all to come together. Full-blown planning has been in the works at least 8 months, he says.

This year, there’s something for everyone. From a celebrity golf tournament that’s already sold out to winemaker dinners and Saturday afternoon’s Rosé Parté. Todd English hosts the latter, which promises plenty of rosé wine, bites, and glamour.

“The menu will be a combination of great dishes that will span the rosé-producing culinary map. I will be looking for excellent food pairings for the wines being showcased that really shows the versatility of rosé,” English says.

English is one of several chefs proud and excited to return to the event this year. “Nirvana is such a tremendous event on all levels: Beautiful setting, well-run, wonderful foodie crowd, a round of golf and most importantly—BeauMac,” English says.

In fact, the experience for the chefs is one of the things MacMillan is most proud of. “They weren’t overloaded with work, they could come out and enjoy the event and not have to work like dogs to feed 3,000 people,” he says.

Mora Italian

Mora Italian / Scott Conant

Just some of the top chefs attending this year include Aarón Sánchez, Scott Conant, Chuck Wiley, Justin Beckett, Christopher Gross, James Porter and many more. And it’s bound to be quite the party.

“Food is therapy,” MacMillan says. “As well as fun, as well as inspiration.” Well, we couldn’t agree more.

15 Qs WITH

LAST BOOK YOU READ? In Harm’s Way. I love books about the ocean and survival stories.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL…. My 90-pound American Bulldog, Daisy. No, I am her. Scratch that. Good God, uh, a Great white shark or a koala bear.
FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Chocolate and peanut butter
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE? Brad Pitt is unavailable so Vince Vaughan
MORNING OR NIGHT PERSON? Both. I used to be a night person but I’ve had three kids
WHAT ANNOYS YOU MOST? Ungratefulness; when people aren’t kind to others
THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF: Animated, sensitive, funny
IF YOU COULD TRADE LIVES WITH ANYONE FOR A DAY WHO WOULD IT BE? Robert Plant, the lead singer of Led Zeppelin—can I have a week?
WHAT FOOD TREND DO YOU JUST NOT GET? There’s things I get sick of, like kale, brussels sprouts, avocado toast. I know it’s good but it doesn’t have to be everything. The food trend I love the most is passing and sharing, food being communal again.
LAST MOVIE YOU SAW? I, Tonya and I fell asleep 5 minutes before it ended
BEER OR WINE? Wine now, used to be beer.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU FIND ICONIC? I’m a fan of hotels that have a deep history and tradition, like The Plaza Hotel in New York it’s very iconic for me. The Waldorf, the bar is so outdated but you couldn’t change anything about it and their martini is the best—I love iconic landmarks like that.