Spotlight: Celebrity Chef Beau MacMillan

Leah LeMoineMay 1, 2023
Share This
Photography by Diana Elizabeth Steffen
Photography by Diana Elizabeth Steffen

Seminal Celebrity Chef

Career transitions can be tough – even for Food Network stars. “I still cry sometimes when I drive by Sanctuary,” says Beau MacMillan, who opened the resort’s showpiece restaurant, elements, as executive chef in 2001. “I started there when I was 27… I knew, someday, if I ever got the opportunity to leave Sanctuary, I wanted to put myself in a position where my strengths could be development and creativeness.” In 2022, he made the jump, leaving elements to open Cala, a Mediterranean-inflected spot in Old Town Scottsdale’s Senna House hotel, with his partners in the hospitality group Clive Collective. We sat down with MacMillan at Cala a few months after its first birthday to talk about career phases, food TV (the Guy’s Grocery Games judge was fresh off an appearance on All-Star Grocery Rush) and his next two concepts, due later this year and in 2024.

How’s Cala going, a year in?

What’s crazy is how fast a year goes by. I haven’t really opened a restaurant in 23 years. There’s a lot you have to kind of re-learn. When you find the right people, the right squad, that’s really what sets it apart. I was lucky – I had four culinarians that I’ve worked with, from [Cala executive chef] Peter McQuaid to [chef de cuisine] Clinton Lomayma to [sous chef] Cisco Zazueta, and [pastry chef] Gabi Bissell, who have all been with me for [years]. Pete’s been with me since he was 16 years old. This kid’s only 25 years old now, and he’s opened up two restaurants. 

How does it feel to move into a more developmental and mentoring role?

I love that part. I went through an identity crisis, because I’ve been an executive chef [for so long]. My whole career, I’ve been in the industry, working up to being an executive chef, where I had to be at one place owning that… The other side of life as a chef, where I am in my life [now], is helping people out and giving back… I’m also a dad and a husband, and I have five children. This is the first part of my life where I’m saying, “How blessed am I that I have young people that want to be here and want to put the time in?” And if I want to leave at 7 o’clock and go cook my kids dinner, like I did last night, these guys are like, “Chef, see you tomorrow.” The place isn’t going to fall apart.

What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

One is a speakeasy opportunity that’s kind of going to be a reverse speakeasy. Even though it will have the allure and the drama of a place that’s hidden, it’s not going to be. It’s going to be a cocktail-focused menu [with small bites, including a caviar menu]. The other thing is… I’ve cooked farm-fresh American fare with Asian accents for 23 years. And when I left Sanctuary, I was like, “I hope I never have to cook a miso salmon again in my life.” I’ve been gone for a year, and I missed the Asian flavors in my food so much that we’re going to try [doing] small-plate, tapas-style Asian food…
robata, raw bar, sushi-esque dishes, bao buns, dumplings… Like, I gotta eat some dumplings.

Favorite local restaurants? You always promote Valley places on Food Network.

I’ve been blessed to watch this city grow up… I just went to Pizzeria Virtù the other night, and I [loved it]. I went down to dinner at Bacanora with my wife and had one of the greatest experiences of my life… I still think Tarbell’s is one of the best restaurants in the city. Glai Baan might have been the last best experience [we had]. I really found [chef] Cat [Bunnag]’s depth of evolution in her food absolutely delicious. And her husband is a gem… I can’t get back there soon enough.

Any new shows coming up?

I’ve opened up two restaurants in the last year [Cala and Clive Collective’s Money, Baby! in Las Vegas, which closed in 2022], so it’s kind of taken me away from that space… Obviously, I love to stay relevant and do that stuff, like [Food Network’s smash hit] Tournament of Champions. Unfortunately, I’ve had conflicts with it two years in a row.


For more than 50 years, PHOENIX magazine's experienced writers, editors, and designers have captured all sides of the Valley with award-winning and insightful writing, and groundbreaking report and design. Our expository features, narratives, profiles, and investigative features keep our 385,000 readers in touch with the Valley's latest trends, events, personalities and places.