Chef Beau MacMillan, Beau Mac to his friends, is down to earth. Which is actually no small feat, since as of late, he's had his share of face time on TV. Best known for his stint on the Food Network's Iron Chef America, Battle Kobe Beef, where he made quick work of Iron Chef Bobby Flay, he's still retained his humble charm and warm, endearing laugh. Where other chefs might be bolting to the Next Big Thing, Beau's still here in town at Paradise Valley's Elements, turning out artisanal, seasonal and farm fresh creations. (And working on the next big thing....)
He's still in the trenches, working long hours in the kitchen on a menu that changes regularly and a teaching series held at his restaurant. Stay tuned this fall, as Beau's on TV again, this time in a new series on FoodTV. While the details are as secret as the mystery ingredient on Iron Chef's battles, one thing is for sure, in the words that pay homage to his Massachusetts-based upbringing - it'll be wicked good.
Chow Bella: Paradise Valley is beautiful. How do your surroundings inspire your food?
Beau McMillan: I was somewhat seduced by natural beauty that is Paradise Valley. I arrived to interview back in '98. I remember arriving in the evening, and driving up McDonald Drive towards Camelback, just the light on the mountain was amazing, it has a drawing magnetic like quality. Although it doesn't happen enough, I also love being in the restaurant right as the sun comes up. If Scottsdale had an ocean it would be called Mecca! I take the same approach to the food, let the ingredients work for themselves, appreciate their natural beauty and don't over work them!
CB: Where you surprised to find we had local farms out here in the desert?
BM: I was surprised. I was really nervous about getting fish out here. I grew up in Massachusetts shucking oysters, so I was worried about finding fresh fish in the desert. But as time goes on you see farmers doing good things. The big standout for me is the fraternity with the local chefs out here. There really aren't a lot of egos. People appreciate chefs working in this town. I was accepted in this town early on. I'd do anything for them, and vice verse.
CB: Do you have a lot of people who recognize you from your battle on Iron Chef?
BM: (Laughter) Actually, I was at AT&T getting a new phone and a kid followed me to my car and he was talking to his friend saying "Do you remember that guy from Battle Kobe Beef, I'm watching him get into his car!" It was really interesting what happened after the show. After I won, people come to the restaurant and say things like, "This is the best chicken," (Laughter). It's all fun, though. My mentor told me that once you believe your own bullshit you're done so I remember that.
CB: What was it like to kick Iron Chef Bobby Flay's butt?
BM: (Laughter) It's really big time network TV on Iron Chef. They tell you what they have in the kitchen, and give you $500 to stock anything else you want. Then they tell you the equipment you will have. The show plates scared me. It was a lot of pressure. You have to make the show plate and then extra for all of the judges. I had an hour to pick the plates. I picked them and they were like, "No, these are the one's the Iron Chef is going to use," so I was like great, I'm screwed. (Laughter) I had to find plates really fast on another part of the set at the last minute. On TV, Kitchen Stadium seems really huge but it's tiny! The heat from the stoves wasn't nearly as hot as home. But then you add all the extra heat from the cameras, and lights, and it was really challenging. I don't remember much about the whole process though. It was like it just started and then it was done!
CB: Is the ingredient really secret?
BM: Yes, you truly do NOT know what you are going to cook until they lift the cover and then you see what you are going to cook.
CB: Kobe Beef, your secret ingredient, that is really expensive stuff. How much do you think the whole spread of Kobe Beef cost that they had on stage for you to us?
BM: Oh man, I'm not sure. Thousands of dollars? AT LEAST a thousand dollars.
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CB: Was Bobby Flay at least gracious when you beat him?
BM: Yes, he was. He told us we did an awesome job, and said very nice things to our staff. I had cooked for him two times. I see him in Aspen and he kind of ignores me. It makes me sad. I have such respect for him.
CB: So about your new show on FoodTV. What can you tell me about it?
BM: Not much. (Laughter) It's already been filmed and it will air later this year.
CB: That's it?
BM: That's it.