A new era has dawned at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. Not only is one of the jewels of Paradise Valley now under the leadership of Gurney’s Resorts, a family of luxury hotels with locations across the United States, but in January, two-time James Beard-nominated chef Samantha Sanz was named the new face of elements, Sanctuary’s award-winning signature eatery. She stepped into the role after long-time elements chef and Food Network darling Beau MacMillan transitioned to the resort’s culinary advisor.
The position represents a full-circle moment in Sanz’s life.
Born and raised in Mexico, where her family owned a restaurant, Sanz grew up in the kitchen.
“When I was 6, I picked up a skillet and started cooking while my mother’s back was turned. And I never stopped,” says Sanz, who in 2008 moved to Arizona to attend the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
Her first professional cooking job?
“Nearly 15 years ago, I began my professional career as a pantry chef at elements, so this is my second time around here,” says Sanz, who still remembers her earliest days at the restaurant, including one night where an entire pan of sea bass marinating in miso sauce spilled on her, leading to an eight-hour shift smelling of fish.
A quick study with the perfect combination of natural talent and eager-to-hone skill, Sanz’s star rose quickly. After breaking into the business with MacMillan as a mentor, Sanz would move on to Virtù Honest Craft, mentoring under chef Gio Osso and serving as chef de cuisine, and then to Talavera at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, where she spent five years and earned her two James Beard nominations.
Sanz departed Talavera amid the Covid-19 pandemic, finding her way back home to elements in late 2020. The move gave her the opportunity to reunite with MacMillan and to dream up farm-fresh American cuisine for the eatery, but with her signature Asian and Latin accents, and amidst some of the most breathtaking views in the Southwest.
Her enhanced role will bring her center stage at the restaurant, as well as with the media, and at intimate luxury wine and cocktail pairing dinners for which the restaurant is known. Most notably, Sanz recently headed February’s James Beard Foundation Taste America Phoenix dinner at the resort in partnership with acclaimed chefs from across the state, including Rochelle Daniel of Fat Ox and Atria.
“It takes a village, and we have one here at Sanctuary,” says Sanz. “I do everything in partnership with our resort executive chef Landon Post, bar chef Christiaan Röllich, sommelier Laura Bruno, and team of talented chefs, bartenders, and service staff.”