Chef Samantha Sanz spinning a new era at elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain.
Since opening more than two decades ago, under the direction of celebrity chef Beau Macmillan, elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain has wowed Arizona foodies with classic fine dining with an Asian flair. After 23 years in the kitchen, Macmillan passed the reins to Chef Samantha Sanz ushering in a new era at this ICONIC Scottsdale restaurant.
Just 33-years-old, Chef Sanz already has two James Beard nominations under her belt and spent five years as Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Scottsdale’s Talavera before coming to lead the kitchen at elements. The move was a homecoming for Chef Sanz who started her career as a pantry cook at elements under Chef Macmillan. A chance run-in with Beau at Jade Bar led to an opportunity of a lifetime when he asked Sanz to come back to elements as Chef de Cuisine.
“I asked if he was kidding, and he said no. The rest is history,” Chef Sanz says.
Photo By LOien
Chef Sanz became the face of elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain last year and she has been putting her own stamp on the restaurant.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been a challenge because elements is such a local institution,” Chef Sanz says. “People got upset when we took some classics off the menu, and I quickly realized that was a fight I wasn’t going to win. Instead, I focus on making them the best they can be.”
For example, Chef Sanz felt that the sweet glaze on the pork chop needed a counterpoint to balance the dish, so she added a kimchi salad. On the popular tuna tartare, she fuses the Asian twists elements is known for with her Latin American roots by adding an apple pear aguachile. Having had the tartare prior, I can attest that the new version adds a sweetness and deepens the complexity of the appetizer.
One of Chef Sanz’s new offerings at elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain is a seasonal gnudi. The current Cacio E Pepe version with pecorino romano, chanterelles and black truffle was one of my husband’s favorite dishes during our recent dinner.
While one of the standout entrees for me was the classic Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, I’m excited about and expect to see Chef Sanz weave more of her culinary fingerprint onto the menu in the months to come.
Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass
“I get inspiration for new dishes from anywhere and everywhere,” she says. “Travel, hikes, and browsing through art galleries all get my creative juices flowing. I also love it when vendors bring me new products to play with.”
It’s no surprise that Chef Sanz pursued a culinary career, as she says she was virtually raised in her grandma’s restaurant kitchen.
“I was always curious about different cuisines and loved trying new things,” she says. “My parents always said I was super expensive because I never wanted the kid’s menu at a restaurant.”
While her mom had dreams of Sanz becoming a lawyer, one internship at the courthouse was enough for Chef Sanz to be sure her calling was in the kitchen.
Chef Sanz’s new elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain menu is complimented by a reenergized wine program curated by Sommelier Laura Bruno. The wine list has gone from about 150 bottles to over 550. Bruno has compiled a cellar stocked with what she calls “wines of consequence.” As a wine lover I was impressed with the diversity of the offerings ranging from a strong 2nd Label Bordeaux collection, local wines and obscure varietals like a Fendant from Switzerland. With 16 countries and 66 different grape varietals on offer, there’s something for any oenophile.
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For Arizona residents eager to sample the new chapter at elements, take advantage of a local resident staycation offer, which includes a daily resort credit that can be used in the restaurant.