Summer School with Beau MacMillan and Robert Irvine at The Sanctuary

A French saute pan flew across the floor, and the crowd warmed up like a TV audience as Chef Beau MacMillan taunted Chef Robert Irvine during introductions Saturday night at the latest Lunch & Learn event, part of the summer cooking demonstration and dining series at The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain

Tongue firmly in check, MacMillan offered to fill in during the cooking demo and cover for Irvine's lack of personality -- on display in a series of recent Food Network shows, including the most recent season of "Worst Cooks in America," in which Irvine replaced MacMillan as one of the teacher/chefs. 

As Irvine peeled off his chef jacket and revealed his waifish body builder's waist MacMilllan inquired, "Do you buy all your clothes at Baby Gap?"

Irvine took charge as he commanded Beau Mac and the guests to stand up, put hands in the air and shout, warning, "I am not boring!" 

And so on. But the jokes and jostling quickly turned to serious cooking and sumptuous food. Each cooking demo and menu in the Lunch & Learn series, hosted by Chef MacMillan, is seasoned with the personality and talent of the guest host. Along with Irvine, the line-up for this year celebrity chefs include Geoffrey Zakarian, and Marcus Samuelssan as well as dates with the cream of Phoenix's restaurant chef crop.

Spiced oyster shooters, chinese five spice sturgeon, and August's Lunch & Learn Line-up after the jump.

After gushing over his fiancé, women's wrestling champ and knock out Gail Kim, Robert told us to follow his directions for the first course Trio of Pacific Oysters. "Taste the spiced oyster shooter last so it won't over power the flavor of the other two oysters on the plate". The anchovy gremolata oyster could have been a bit too briny, it wasn't, but the hit of the trio was a trifecta of traif- oyster with pork and bacon confit.   

A frequent attendee (an impressive 7 years) of the Lunch & Learn series joined Robert on the kitchen stage to assist in preparing Orange Kim Chee Mahi Mahi with jasmine rice and celery slaw. Chef Irvine explained his preference for grape seed oil, to cook at high temps, over oil or butter, because of its higher smoking point (425 F). He advised not to toss out celery leaves and tips; iinstead use them, for what Beau called "umamiesque" flavoring. Tossed with crisp red onion and daikon root, the salad's combination of celery tips along with corn shoots was the taste excitement in the dish.

Two good-natured male guests joined Irvine and his well-defined biceps on stage for a human demo of what happens to protein when it cooks (it tightens up) and the benefits of resting cooked protein before serving, to relax from tightening and re-distribute the juices. The mahi mahi was served with Simi Pinot Noir (Sonoma 2008) and a few wine pairing tips from Tom Manda of Southern Wine and Spirits.

Irvine's prowess with flavors and finishes was clear in the third course, Five Spiced Dusted Seared Sturgeon with apple nage and barley compote garnished with an Asian slaw. The richness of the sturgeon contrasted with the neutral barley and sweetness of finely diced apples cooked down, thickened and highlighted by an addition of cayenne. As in the mahi mahi, the slaw of cabbage, bok choy, daikon, and snow pea in vinaigrette of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and honey made the dish memorable. The sturgeon was served with Simi "Reserve" Chardonnay (Russian River 2009).


Irvine showed his English roots in the meat course. Herb Crusted Tenderloin and demi glace were accompanied by creamed (not mashed) potato and fresh peas marinated in balsamic. The peas failed to add to the perfectly seasoned and prepared tenderloin and potatoes, but the finish of "dried blue cheese powder" compound butter did. Simi "Landslide" Cabernet (Alexander Valley 2007) was the last of the excellent pairing of wine and food for the evening.

Caramel Addiction Brownie bites preceded the dessert of Chilled Grapefruit Soufflé with orange mint salad, sabayon and chocolate jus. The chocolate and caramel crunch of the brownie was a tease and led to disappointment in the soufflé. Beautifully presented and a cool refreshing finish to four savory courses, it just paled after the bite of the chocolaty brownie with its caramel crunch.


MacMillan and Irvine raised $3000 during an auction of chef-autographed aprons for Phoenix Children's Hospital. The evening ended with a standing ovation for the kitchen crew, led by Chef "Lee" Lucier, the executive chef of Irvine's restaurant- eat (SC) and a member of the Restaurant Impossible/Dinner Impossible television team. Reluctant to call it a night, guests stayed on to mingle with the chefs, ask more cooking questions and take full advantage of a photos op.

Lunch & Learn: Lunch $75, Dinner $125, Friday-Private Chef's Tasting $150
July 30 Geoffrey Zakarian
Aug. 6 Tram Mai- hosts EVIT culinary student battle, Eddie Matney & Michael DeMaria-judges
Aug. 13 Marcus Samuelsson (Dinner)
Aug. 20 ( to be announced)
Aug. 27 Matt Carter, Aaron May, and Charles Kassels with Perry Rea of Queen Creek Olive Mill

Lunch & Learn at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain
5700 East McDonald Drive, Paradise Valley
reservations: 480.607.2300

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Carol Blonder