Hey Phoenix, there's a new toque in town - and let us tell you, this chef is really bringing it. You won't find him in the kitchen of the hottest new restaurant or the hippest gastropub, but rather managing a slew of eateries at one of the Valley's signature resorts.
Wednesday night Executive Chef Paul Millist of the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort and Spa welcomed guests to the BLT Steak private dining room to experience his creative and playful cuisine inspired by his international experience in fine cuisine. It was a no holds barred affair, a chance for the chef to lay down the full gamut of circus tricks he's brought to the Valley from far flung places such as Phuket (his most recent position) and the Seychelles.
Originally from Australia, Millist has used his successful career in food to travel the world during his decades in the business. He's worked in Europe, Thailand and Bali and under well-known chefs including the infamous Gordon Ramsey - Millist tells us Ramsey really does yell that much.
Wednesday's seven-course meal served as Millist's coming out party for a small crowd of attendees. The menu featured mainly seafood and highlighted the chef's whimsical take on food and impeccable attention to detail. Each artistically plated entrée arrived with a short back-story and wine pairing selected by the sommelier to either complement or contrast the dish.
While every plate left a lasting memory, standouts included the second course of silken tofu with Dungeness crab and the chef's handmade lobster tortellini, for which he says his wife married him. Of course, the Waygu beef won't be easily forgotten, and the accompanying tempura oyster and kimichi were excellent in their own rights.
But planning a meal and executing it perfectly is what chefs are supposed to be able to do, so Millist offered to perform a more difficult challenge with the fifth course. In Iron Chef-style, he allowed one guest to select a random recipe from a bookshelf of cookbooks to be prepared and plated in the dining room. With a few substitutions (he was unable to get a hold of the Australian white fish the original recipe called for) he presented a sea bass with potatoes and a gorgeous carrot puree.
The highlights continued through last two courses, both sweet. The first of which, aptly titled "No Smoking," was a chocolate mint marshmallow cigarette that came with an excellent Moscato from Barossa Valley in South Australia. Diners particularly enjoyed the last course, an interactive dish (many of the entrées included multiple parts) called "Paint Shop." Chef presented a simple and delicately flavored white chocolate and coconut dessert with three tubes of edible "paint" and real brushes.
From start to finish Millist kept guests simultaneously satisfied and impatient to taste - and see - what he could come up with next. Needless to say, he'll be an asset to the resort and the growing collection of talented Valley chefs.