Experience Culinary Nirvana at Sanctuary in Paradise Valley
I have been to my share of wine and food festivals from New York City to Flagstaff. One of the most memorable was the inaugural Nirvana Food and Wine Festival which took place at the breathtaking Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley in April 2017. Nirvana took the culinary festival experience to another level with the caliber of chefs, cuisine and libations.
Nirvana is hosted by Beau MacMillan, executive chef at Sanctuary. A New England native, Chef Beau has been a force in the Arizona culinary scene for two decades and a Food Network favorite. You may have seen him judging and competing on “Guy’s Grocery Games” and famously defeating Bobby Flay on “Iron Chef America.” His passion for the Arizona culinary scene fueled the birth of Nirvana. “With the thriving food scene in Phoenix and Scottsdale, we always dreamed of pioneering a culinary event at Sanctuary,” said Chef Beau. “Like many other chefs in Arizona, I’ve endeavored to produce recognition for Arizona’s culinary scene not just on the local and regional level, but on a national scope as well. I believe this city offers the best of hospitality and can rival the culinary scene in all other cities around the country. For me, Nirvana is about being able to cook alongside other brilliant Scottsdale and Phoenix chefs while expressing one’s unique style through food. I’m proud of what my city and state can do and hope to give others around America a taste of our exceptional caliber as well.”
In my experience, what sets Nirvana apart from other culinary events is the elegant and lively atmosphere and the accessibility of the celebrity chefs. Chef Beau is an extremely warm and gracious host, and he was feeling the love at the inaugural festival in 2017. “I think the biggest highlight for me was the incredible amount of support and love we received,” he said. “Although it was an inaugural event, our community rallied behind us and we were ultimately able to create a culinary festival that culinarians, winemakers and locals all genuinely loved.”
I’m excited to hear that Chef Beau has big plans for the future of Nirvana. “At its inception, I saw Nirvana as a seed. Moving forward, my vision is to cultivate it, nourish it and grow it. Eventually, I’d like for the festival to be a week long and to have other restaurants around the city hosting events for Nirvana.”
With the spectacular Sanctuary as a backdrop, Nirvana takes place April 19-22 and includes a variety of events offering samples of food and wine from several chefs in a relaxed atmosphere with great entertainment. The festival starts on Thursday evening with Bourbon Street, a New Orleans style celebration. Friday evening’s Flutes and Coops features fried chicken, champagne and whiskey hosted by Stephanie Izard, the newest Iron Chef, and television personality Chuck Hughes. Master of Taste offers a more intimate dining experience at one of the Sanctuary’s luxurious private estates on Thursday and Friday nights. New to the Nirvana lineup is the Rose Parte Saturday brunch hosted by Chef Todd English. On Saturday evening, Best of the West is hosted by Scott Conant, “Chopped” judge and owner of Phoenix’s Mora Italian, and award-winning mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim. The weekend of foodie fun closes on Sunday with a Tequila and Tortillas brunch hosted by Food Network’s Aaron Sanchez and New Orleans mixologist Maxton Kennedy. A portion of the proceeds from the festival benefit the Careers through Culinary Arts program (C-CAP), a nonprofit that prepares underserved high school students for careers in the culinary and hospitality industries through training and scholarships. You can purchase tickets to individual events and packages on the Nirvana Food and Wine Festival website.
If you can’t make it to Nirvana, there are many other events at Sanctuary including a ZD wine dinner on March 22, a Farmer in the House dinner featuring Cade and Plumpjack wines on May 24, and Sanctuary’s Lunch & Learn series which bring great chefs and fine wines to Sanctuary during the summer. If you want thoughtful food, good wine and incredible views, you can stop by Sanctuary’s Jade Bar or elements restaurant any time.