Sick of the pandemic? Ready to party? No, not like the idiots on spring break in Florida and Texas but in a responsible, socially distanced sort of way? Well, so is chef and “local-boy-makes-good” Aaron May, and he’s throwing his own outlandish outdoor bash called Aaron May’s Big Boy Cook Club Cookout on Sunday, April 25th from 2-7 p.m. at Walter Sterling’s Ocotillo Restaurant in Central Phoenix, which will strictly adhere to CDC guidelines for safety.
May is the larger-than-life chef you might remember from Sol y Sombra, Over Easy, Iruña, The Lodge and Mabel’s on Main. Many of those restaurants are gone now, but May (who still oversees the kitchens at The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen in Tempe and Goodwood Tavern in Scottsdale) has become a Food Network star and bona-fide celebrity chef since those early days, often acting as a judge on Guy’s Grocery Games or Guy’s Ranch Kitchen. Naturally, he rubs shoulders with other Food Network stars and celebrity chefs, and he’s invited about a dozen of them to cook and hangout with him (and you) at what he calls an “amazing, intimate” party that will “not be snooty or pretentious like a food and wine festival.”
The line-up, which is pretty damned impressive, includes: Food Network glitterati Aarti Sequeira, Christian Petroni, Damaris Phillips, Michelin Star chef Akira Back and James Beard TV studio award winner Aaron Sanchez, famous pit masters Pat Martin and Burt Bakman, talented local mixologist Casey Wallin, social media star Elsie Eats, James Beard award-winning chef Todd English (Olives and Figs, Boston), Indian brothers and partners Arjun and Nakul Mahendro (Badmaash modern Indian restaurant, LA) and Chopped Grill Masters contestant Stan Hays, co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief, the nonprofit that cooks meals for communities that have suffered natural disasters. Except for Wallin, who will be slinging cool cocktails (wine and beer are also available), the chefs will prepare their signature dishes as well as a few originals, some of which may make use of local hot sauce homeboy Jacob Cutino’s creative sauces. Cutino will be there too, talking hot sauce.
DJ Irie, resident DJ for the Miami Heat, will spin vinyl, and there will be tattoo artists, cigar rollers, spirit samples and photo booths to keep the crowd amused between bites. Imagine noshing on the likes of truffle-fontina pizzetta, seared Wagyu with foie gras espuma, Indian goan pork sliders and NY bagels, lox and caviar.
As May puts it, “It will be a coterie of ne’er-do-wells who show up and bring the circus to town.” Tickets are available through Eventbrite: $100, Lawn Party; $200, VIP; $1,000, Big Boy. Proceeds benefit Operation BBQ Relief. The event can safely hold about 350 people in Ocotillo’s expansive outdoor space. Don’t dilly-dally if you’re interested.
P.S. — VIP tickets allow access to the VIP area, where May, Sterling and Ocotillo wine wonk Dave Johnson (who all worked together at Sol y Sombra) will be getting the band back together. Naturally, there will be more food and wine involved.