PARADISE VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It’s a scenic path heading east along McDonald Drive with the affluent homes of Paradise Valley to your left and monumental Camelback Mountain on the right. As you drive along in the shadow of the mountain, eventually, you’ll happen upon a resort tucked right up into the north side, Sanctuary Resort. Aside from the humbling views, the cozy retreat also offers a top-notch restaurant and bar led by seasoned and ambitious chefs looking to push culinary and beverage boundaries while still serving up dishes their guests have come to love for years. Pop a spot at Jade Bar to enjoy a refreshing drink, and then head over to Elements for a curated menu and food experience you won’t soon forget!
The ambiance moves throughout the Sanctuary Resort and sets the perfect mood for a classy cocktail or elegant spirit when stepping into Jade Bar. The bar is off to the right from Elements after walking in and is comfortably designed for guests, soon-to-be diners, anyone wanting to grab a drink in an elevated atmosphere, or for catching up with friends. It’s a great spot with indoor and outdoor seating to soak in the Paradise Valley views and enjoy a sunset. Waiting for a table? You should have enough time to peruse the expansive spirits menu for a drink or two, or perhaps try an artisanal cocktail whipped up by Bar Chef Christiaan Röllich.
Röllich grew up in the Netherlands and worked tavern jobs before moving to Los Angeles in 1997. He worked his way through nightclubs and restaurants for several years, which eventually led him to Lucques, a James Beard award-winning restaurant in West Hollywood. Lucques was considered a fine-dining Hollywood staple until it closed after 21 years of service in 2020. Röllich, who worked at Lucques for 12 years, says that job is what changed everything for him.
“Their philosophy is they make everything from scratch; it’s all farm to table. So, I thought what they do in the kitchen; I should do. So, I started making my own syrups. From there on, I started making more things like classic bitters. I started making orange liquor, different syrups like cherry liquor and eventually sweet vermouth and then Campari,” Röllich said. “It was really fun, actually. The whole idea for me was that bar program was about classic cocktails made with in-house ingredients. So, every classic cocktail basically becomes an artisanal cocktail.”
Röllich said when the pandemic hit and everything was closed, times got tough for himself, his two boys, and his wife, who grew up in Scottsdale. Fearing an eventual second wave of cases, Röllich and his family moved to Arizona. Röllich attributes the tight-knit bar community around Phoenix for being so helpful in getting him back on his feet and a meeting with Element’s Executive Chef Beau MacMillan.
“I got the job here, and they were very supportive, and kind of gave me like a stage,” Röllich explained. “It was kind of difficult in the beginning because I make everything from scratch. Everything (prior) was bought, and I wanted freshness; I want that bite in there.”
Changing the way a bar operates and thinks about ingredients is no easy task. Still, Röllich’s dedication to fresh, in-house-made ingredients ensures a unique taste and experience for anyone sipping down a crafted cocktail at Jade Bar. While there’s still a good amount of customers who come ready with a drink already in mind, Röllich says one of his favorite aspects of the job is to have people taste new things they’ve never tasted before and find out they actually enjoy it.
“Showing that to people is really cool because they’ve never thought of it. They’re like, ‘Oh, I need some special whiskey,’ and it’s ‘well, have you ever thought about drinking rum?’ Or ‘I want bourbon’ and ‘well this is aged in an old bourbon cask, and there’s definitely essences of bourbon, it’s just different then they taste one and say ‘oh, this is really good!’” Röllich said. “It’s cool for people to discover new things. It makes them come back as well. Let yourself be surprised!”
Little Leaf – Jade Bar’s current No. 1 drink, and it’s clear why. This earthy-green drink is crisp, refreshing, and visually appealing to the eyes. It has a spring/summer cucumber drink vibe while packing a smokey and peppery kick thanks to the mezcal and jalapeno.
Boulevardier – Röllich’s take on this classic includes bourbon with made in-house sweet vermouth and Campari. It’s packed with a rich and strong flavor but has hints of citrus zest and ginger, giving it a well-rounded artisanal mix.
River’s Edge – The tequila drink you’ve been waiting for! Röllich employs some serious science to the balance of this drink by incorporating yuzu, ginger, and a drop of truffle oil that acts as a bridge between the tequila and ginger, bringing the flavors together into something new. Everything about the drink is cool, from the sight to the aroma you inhale before that first sip, and it features a fresh apple garnish to top it all off! A very smooth drink.
Bootneck – This upcoming fruity drink should catch the eye of anyone it passes, and it will bring a smile to the face of any gin enthusiast. Röllich crafts his own tonic syrup to mix in with gin and a white port to concoct this frothy and summer drink. The flavors align with a gin and juice, but this drink has greater appeal, image, and overall finish.
After finishing up a drink or when your table is ready, the casual walk over and through Elements for the dining portion is as exciting as it is classy. The courteous and professional staff serve up bread and butter and have extensive knowledge of the menus and specials, even down to the specific tastes and ingredients for the dishes. It’s all a part of the experience and ambiance that Executive Chef Beau MacMillan and Chef de Cuisine Samantha Sanz aim for when people sit down to enjoy the expertly crafted meals coming out from their kitchen.
In most kitchens, there’s typically a philosophy to evolve, grow, and constantly improve the foods and menu, which aligns with Chef Sanz’s passion for her career and finding new ways to brighten up people’s plates. Sanz says she practically grew up in her family’s restaurant, Trocadero, which has operated for 63 years in Nogales, Sonora. Growing up intrigued by the kitchen eventually brought Sanz to Scottsdale, where she pursued her passion at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
“Elements at the Sanctuary was actually my first job, back in 2008. So, I started working here, worked really hard, worked my way up the ladder, and then left after three years of working here,” Sanz recalled. Sanz worked at a couple of places in Scottsdale, including the Four Seasons Talavera restaurant for five years, before returning to her home at the Sanctuary to become the chef de cuisine.
“It’s very, very special, and very neat. I never thought that I was going to come back but coming back as a chef de cuisine is full circle; it’s a beautiful story. Sanctuary has always had like half of my heart because this was my first job ever, and I worked really hard to get to where I left at as a Cook 1,” Sanz explained. “It’s just really special to be working again with Chef Beau, who was my first mentor, and seeing some of the same faces from 10 years ago is unbelievable just because Sanctuary really does work like a family.”
The family vibe is apparent throughout Elements. The staff operates as efficient cogs in the restaurant machine, all working together to bring the most out of every visit for guests and patrons. All staff members I encountered were helpful, very knowledgeable, and well versed in the menu and foods and appeared to have a genuine joy to be working and took pride in their job. Based on my past kitchen jobs, I could tell the workplace atmosphere at Elements was top-notch, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when it’s comprised of a family having a great time doing what they all do best, serving up some great food.
Sanz, who has an important role now in that family, attributes travel as her source for culinary inspiration when crafting new dishes.
“I try to soak it all up like a sponge. From my travels, I get inspired by the color, by the food, by the culture, the people surrounding me. So, travel for me is essential to continue with my career, and I try to take something with me every single time I go somewhere,” Sanz said. “Even working in different kitchens, adapting and taking new techniques from other chefs and cooks, whatever it is. I try to become this encyclopedia of things that I see, that I live, and I taste.”
Sanz is utilizing what she’s learned along her travels, collaborating with Chefs’ Beau and Röllich to really revitalize and bring fresh takes to the menu. Sanz said she is inspired and motivated to continue exploring and pushing new foods and finding ways to share her creativity in the kitchen with everyone. Chef Sanz will be sharing some of that creativity with some of her new cuisines on the upcoming spring menu at Elements. And while Sanz says it’s only the beginning of her story, it’s clear this chef has a bright future ahead!
While a couple of menu items have persevered throughout the years (the Miso Glazed Salmon standing strong at over 13 years), there is a desire to evolve and find ways to change up or improve the menu and introduce new dishes that push the culinary boundaries. There are certainly patron favorites for the appetizers and entrees, but the menu options themselves all stand out if you’re in the mood for fish, beef, pork, or vegan dishes with accents of Asian cuisine and some hints of Latin flair.
Wagyu Beef & Ginger Dumplings – A great pre-meal snack for one or to split between two. The beef is hearty and packed to the point of bursting within the dumplings. Great combinations of flavors going on here with the toasted peanuts mixed with the ginger. The chili ponzu is delicious as well.
Fiery Calamari (app favorite) – I was told by several (and overheard at two different tables) that this was an appetizer favorite. As someone who is personally not a fan typically of calamari, I must say this dish changed my entire perception. From the fried herbs, light bake, and breading on the calamari, surprising kicks of spice from the cherry peppers and the miso scallion vinaigrette sauce… WOW! Get a little bit of everything within a bite, and next stop, Flavortown. A must-try!
Ahi Tuna Crudo – A lavish and visually appealing dish, sure to win over the hearts of any seafood aficionado. Every ingredient in this dish blends so well but also tastes phenomenal on its own. This app is light, has very fresh tastes and great portioning of avocado crema.
Fire-Roasted Japanese Eggplant – It sounds like it has a lot going on, and it sure does! An array of seasonings and sesame cover, adding a flavor bomb to the earthy and miso-saturated eggplants. There’s a sweet, surprising twist with maple that dances with a nice backend heat from the pickled Fresno chiles, which gives a fruitier taste versus the traditional jalapeno pepper.
Brussels Sprouts (under the side dishes) –Regardless of your personal preference toward brussels sprouts, the innovative approach taken at Elements makes this a standout side. Bits of crispy and savory pork belly are sprinkled throughout the bowl of roasted veggies with hints of sweet and heat, elevated by a kick of kimchi sauce! The pork belly has an excellent crisp to it as well, rounding out this delicious side that could be a standalone meal.
Miso Glazed Salmon – If miso soup met salmon -- essentially is what this marvelous and longstanding Elements staple is what you get. The kitchen recommended cook of medium churns out an excellent salmon with great color and taste throughout. There is a light but perfect amount of miso glaze that sticks exceptionally to the fish, careful enough not to overpower the flavor and seasoning. The sōmen noodles and Gai Lan (Chinese broccoli) underneath the fish completes the dish, making this truly a unique and understandably menu favorite.
Chilean Sea Bass – An incredible and well-presented plate. The broccoli, squash and beech mushrooms are seeped into a tasty and creamy kabocha red curry sauce. Don’t worry; there’s no heat to the sauce! The sea bass was cooked to perfection, so soft and tender it nearly melts in your mouth. The forbidden rice is a nice touch and mixes in well with the sauce and veggies.
Black Truffle & Lobster Risotto – My personal favorite among the entrees. The risotto was on point with an excellent cook, while hefty chunks of fresh lobster are well portioned throughout. The toasted walnut gremolata and oyster mushrooms compliment the dish well, while the seasoning tops it all off for a creamy and robust meal!
PB Bombe – A peanut butter lover’s heaven! If you’re from the Midwest or are familiar with the Buckeye candy, think that but times 100! The extravagant chocolate garnish presentation catches the eyes, while the exceptionally moist and creamy “bombe” itself steals the show. It almost seems like a crime to spoon into the bombe, only to be surprised by how soft and packed with peanut butter it is. The rich chocolatey exterior and crumbled macadamia nuts come through as well to sweeten the treat.
Butterscotch Budino – This new dessert option is quickly growing in popularity. It’s so sweet and a caramel/butterscotch delight. The outside has a slight crisp to the graham cracker casing, protecting a soft and sweet center, all covered by a malted butterscotch sauce and topped with a scoop of bourbon gelato. A true WOW’ing of the flavors here and a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Lemon & Blood Orange Custard – This is without a doubt one of the most well-crafted desserts I’ve seen in some time! Once you get done admiring the presentation, you’ll note through the first couple scoops it’s sweet, tart, citrusy, and has excellent consistency for the custard. The white chocolate bark adds an occasional nice crunch to the mix as well. A prime example of hard work and bringing to life a truly remarkable creation.
Between the power trio minds of MacMillan, Sanz, and Röllich, Jade Bar and Elements restaurant will leave your stomachs full, tastebuds satisfied, and phenomenal experience quenched. These chefs are at the top of their game in their respective crafts and are fine-tuning the drinks and meals to new levels of enjoyment for all who visit the Sanctuary Resort. Röllich’s dedication to fresh, made from scratch ingredient drinks at Jade Bar really set the opening mood and expectations for what you’re about to encounter. And whether it’s the dishes already perfected over the years by MacMillan, or the new colorful twists and tastes pushing culinary boundaries by Sanz, the foods enjoyed at Elements round out a great, curated experience!
This is the first segment in a breakout series on chefs in the Phoenix metro. Arizona’s Family Foodie is sitting down with chefs around the Valley to tell their stories of triumphs, perseverance, and dedication to their crafts. There is a sizeable amount of work, research, and experimentation that culminates into what gets placed in front of you on a plate or in a drink. These are the stories of the creative minds behind those delicious meals and cocktails and how their passions for food and beverage bring us joy and closer together.