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Beau Mac Dishes on His Favorite Herb and What It's Like Being Famous

Beau MacMillan elements Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa 5700 E. McDonald Drive 480-948-2100 www.sanctuaryoncamelback.com

This is part one of my interview with Beau MacMillan, executive chef of elements at Sanctuary Resort and Spa. Come back on Tuesday for part two.

If Phoenix has a bona fide celebrity chef, it's Beau MacMillan -- known as Beau Mac by his many friends and admirers. Not only has he cooked with Al Roker on the Today Show, catered for Britney Spears, beat out Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, and served as personal chef to Wayne Gretzky, this friendly sports nut with the Boston accent has also co-hosted Food Network's Worst Cooks in America, served as a contestant on Chopped All-Stars and made appearances on The Best Thing I Ever Ate and The Best Thing I Ever Made. Beau knows TV. Have a five-minute conversation with this constantly moving smooth talker and it's easy to see why he's such a natural. But what makes MacMillan so likable -- despite the glitz and glam of his lights-camera-action lifestyle -- are his work ethic and innate modesty.

He's a normal guy who, by his own admission, keeps his head down and never forgets how he got to where he is. Growing up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, MacMillan worked in restaurants throughout high school, quickly discovering that he preferred the kitchen to the front of the house. While he was working at Crane Brook Tea Room, his first high-end restaurant, a light bulb went off: "This could be more than a job; this could be a career."

He attended Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and "hit the ground running" upon graduation, spending a year with world-famous French chef Francois de Melogue (La Veille Maison), who taught him culinary foundations and principles and "lit the spark." From there, he worked as sous chef at the Hotel Bel Air in L.A. and Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. MacMillan also spent an unforgettable year as a private chef on a yacht that cruised the Bahamas and the Caribbean. In 1998, he was invited to develop the cuisine at The Ranch on Camelback, which transitioned from John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch to Sanctuary. MacMillan stayed on to work under executive chef Charles Wiley (currently the executive chef at Hotel Valley Ho) for four years before taking the position himself in 2004.

What was it like to work under Chuck Wiley?: He was Yoda, and I was his Jedi Knight. I was a rough-edged guy who had potential. Chuck groomed me and refined me. He showed me the door and let me walk through it. He's the consummate professional. He can cook, lead, manage, delegate, and inspire. I've never had a better time in a kitchen with the camaraderie and teamwork we had there.

How has your world changed since being on TV?: I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with amazing people; I've had some success that has allowed me to share my passion for food with others. I am truly grateful for that. Although it's definitely changed my world in a great way, I don't think it has changed me. A great chef once told me, "Once you believe your own BS in this business, you're done!" I think about that every day. I don't take for granted how lucky I am.

Do you consider yourself a celebrity chef?: The word "celebrity" isn't something I'm really comfortable with. It's like "success" and "failure." How do you measure that? It's so subjective. Chefs have traditionally been stuck in cramped, uncomfortable quarters, even when they're cooking for kings and queens. This is what I do for a job, so I don't really understand what the word "celebrity" means when it comes to a chef.

Most under-rated ingredient: Flat leaf parsley; it's sad that chefs take this wonderful herb for granted. It's become so commonplace that it is looked at merely as a garnish but it can do so much for food. It's something I like to cook with all the time in many different dishes.

What's your guilty pleasure?: I'm a sucker for cheese. It talks to me.

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Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles

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