By Niki D’Andrea
Chef Beau MacMillan’s energy rivals that of any excited baseball commentator. When he calls to talk about the food programming he has in store for the Innings Festival at Tempe Beach Park – a fete that fuses food, music and baseball – he introduces himself as “BeauMac” and extols the virtues of the event.
“What I’m excited about is, it’s a music festival that has some of the best talent from around the country, and it’s tied to baseball, but it’s also a chance to showcase the great food we have here, from resorts to restaurants to the food trucks to the cocktails,” MacMillan says. “We’re the fifth-largest city in the country and this is a chance to show how big we really are and the quality and diversity of our culinary scene.”
He’s excited to hear some of the headlining bands, too. “I’m looking forward to all the music acts,” he says. “My wife loves Chris Stapleton, so she’s like, ‘I’m coming! I’m coming!’
“Queens of the Stone Age and some of the other acts are going to blow Tempe away. The city’s never had anything like this.”
And neither has MacMillan. “It’s a first time deal for me, doing this type of work with a music festival,” he says. “But music needs food like food needs wine.”
MacMillan, who beat Bobby Flay in “Battle American Kobe Beef” on Iron Chef America in 2006 and has been chef at elements restaurant at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort since 1998, promises interactive demos and “a killer menu.”
There will be three demos at the Innings Festival – one before the event and two during the event – lasting 45 minutes to an hour each. MacMillan was still finalizing details about a month before the festival, but says, “Whatever we’re going to do, we’re going to do really high-end.”
And the demos will be interactive. “Because it’s the Innings Festival, we’re tying in baseball with these demos. I’ve found you can lose someone fast if you’re just showing them how to smoke brisket,” MacMillan says. “But we’re gonna get the crowd involved, get community involved, get the players involved to keep the energy up.”
MacMillan is patterning the demos after the Bar Brawl mixology competitions that take place weekly at Sanctuary during the summer. During those events, which MacMillan has hosted for the past three years, guests can enjoy trivia between rounds, spin-the-wheel games, a DJ and more.
“(The Innings Festival demos will be an) interactive event with the players and musicians,” MacMillan says. “Maybe a burger battle, like a culinary showdown with music, or a three-way food fight with musicians vs. athletes vs. chefs, or maybe a food-fight relay with beer and hot dog-eating in the relay.”
People who buy the “platinum experience” for the festival will get to taste food from a special menu with caterer Michael DeMaria (“It’s gonna be topnotch because he’s a rock star,” MacMillan says).
As for the rest of the festival menus, MacMillan says they’ll be broad and change nightly. “We might have an Asian-influenced menu one night, and night two might be straightforward American barbecue,” he says. “Maybe I’ll pay homage to every baseball city on a hot dog.”
Innings Festival, Tempe Beach Park & Arts Park, 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, inningsfestival.com, various times Friday, March 23, through Sunday, March 25, tickets start at $89.
For more restaurants and events around town, visit our attractions page.