The Accidental Yard Dinner

Scottsdale, Arizona was super cool. Well, it was hot (about 98 degrees hot and yes, I know, I know it’s a dry heat but still it was hot!). I have never been to the dessert. It was my first dessert experience. If I can wake up and work at this place everyday it wouldn’t seem like work. The views are amazing and the place has such a tranquil vibe to it. Despite the extreme dry skin and lips I came home with…this place was beautiful. We stayed at the Sanctuary Hotel and Spa in Camelback where I met Chef Beau MacMillan who’s currently a contestant on The Next Iron Chef. Root for him! He is kick ass.  When your traveling and setting up these dinners it’s hard to walk into a new kitchen and feel at home. You need to figure out the lay of the land which takes a little bit of time and you need to ask A LOT of questions which may piss a few chefs off along the way if they're not cool...“where can I find the sauté pans, do you have any fresh ginger, may I borrow a cooler to transport my food?” All this and they’re in the middle of their service and their events as well. He and his team helped us with everything we needed. They made us feel right at home. Wonderful kitchen etiquette.  One of his sous chefs, Russell, was outstanding. I thought he was going to choke me towards the end because I had to hunt down equipment and food for both events and he was it…my go-to-guy. Poor thing. I mean, I'm very independent and resourceful but sometimes you have to ask for help. And every time I asked him for something he would smile and graciously help me. The restaurant at the hotel is called Elements and we got to dine there during our stay. Chef Beau totally hooked it up with his delicious creations. We ate so much food but that’s the norm when you know the Chef…it’s a perk that I love and appreciate. “Bring it on” is what I always say. I found out that Stephanie use to work for him back in the day and they have remained friends over the years. She worked there right before she moved to Chicago. She said to him one day "Chef, I'm going to Chicago to visit some friends". He knew right then and there that she wouldn't return. The rest is history.

On Saturday Stephanie had a Taco Festival to attend where she did a demo and book signing. She made crispy goat belly tostados. Delicious. Dan (one of her line cooks from Girl and the Goat who is hilarious) was there to help so he and I banged out the rest of the prep and helped her with the demo. It was a success. I even got to see a few lucha libre wrestling matches at the festival which made Dan's day. A bunch of interesting characters I must say…my favorite was Poppi. He was an over weight wrestler (if you can call him that) and he clearly was there for the theatrics. A sweaty, I-love-my-doughnuts old man in tights…some funny shit that’s for sure. Check him out in the pictures, you can't miss him and check out who he had to wrestle. Gotta love it.

The next day Dan and I spent most of the afternoon prepping and packing up for the dinner which was held at The Accidental Yard. The name says it all. No kitchen, no running water, little to no lights. Accident? Still trying to figure it out. Dan called it the "rape room". There might have been a dangling light bulb that fit the scene which of course wasn't working. It was a small empty building just off the area where the guests sat outdoors. We set up a few tables and a couple of portable burners for our station and got to work. Don't get me wrong. The space outdoors for the guests was beautiful. Candles lit up the walkway to the bar. Lights hung above the tables like stars in the sky. Music and cocktails flowed. Laughter and clinking glasses filled the air. Good crowd, great party. Behind the scenes was a different story. Always is. It's amazing what chefs pull off at some of these events. It's like they're magicians.  It's part of the job. Making it work. Making it happen with what you have and delivering great food on top of it. The guests don't give a shit how we do it. They don't realize the challenges. They just want to eat. We all pulled together that night and helped each other out in the dark with very little light. The results, amazing food and very happy guests. Chef Beau and Chef Randy Zweiban from Province collaborated with Stephanie on the menu. It was a great menu. The dinner was a hit and all that attended seemed to walk away full and tipsy just as we wanted them too, not even noticing the dark little room where magic happened. POOF...dinner is served.

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