Dine with Scottsdale's Celebrity & Food Network Chefs

By local contributor
Marilyn Hawkes

Foodies are always on the lookout for the trendiest dining spots when traveling to new cities. Sometimes they’re drawn in by a specific cuisine, or perhaps by a chef they’ve read about or watched on the Food Network. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a collection of notable Scottsdale chefs who have appeared on the TV cooking show circuit along with details about their topnotch restaurants.

 


Scott Conant – The Americano

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As Scottsdale celebrity chefs go, Scott Conant leads the pack when it comes to Food Network sightings. Conant, whose Arizona restaurants include The Americano and Mora Italian, has been a judge on Chopped and Chopped After Hours, and has hosted many Food Network shows, including Chopped Sweets, Best Baker in America and Beat Bobby Flay. His Scottsdale Italian-inspired steakhouse, The Americano, has been an instant hit with locals and visitors alike, celebrated for its cutting-edge, but approachable cuisine that features prime and American Wagyu beef, house-made pastas and Mediterranean seafood. Try Conant’s signature pasta pomodoro and don’t miss the creative cocktails, especially Versace on the Floor made with spicy Fresno chili-infused vodka. Happy hour here is glorious, but expertly prepared dinner in the dining room with its cozy leather booths and ethereal light fixtures overlooking the open kitchen is a memorable experience.

 


Lee Hillson – T. Cook’s

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The Royal Palms Resort & Spa’s Executive Chef Lee Hillson faced off against professional chef and cookbook author Cat Cora during a Food Network Iron Chef competition in 2008. Cora won the coveted title by one point, but Hillson has since gone on to helm several outstanding Valley kitchens, most notably T. Cook’s at The Royal Palms Resort and Spa. Hillson, a James Beard House featured-chef, has put together a Mediterranean-inspired menu that often includes his luxurious pasta carbonara, Arizona-raised Copper State Reserve tenderloin and ribeye, and salmon or halibut prepared with Spanish chorizo and beluga lentils. Enjoy Hillson’s cuisine for brunch or dinner in the modern rustic restaurant or request a seat on one of the inviting patios next to a crackling fireplace with dramatic views of Camelback Mountain.

 


Branden Levine – Sel

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When Branden Levine appeared on Beat Bobby Flay in 2016, he made it to the second round of competition, but Flay bested him while preparing shepherd’s pie. Ironically, Levine’s now fellow Scottsdale restaurateur Scott Conant served as one of the judges. Also in 2016, Levine opened Sel, an enchanting restaurant nestled in the Old Town Scottsdale Arts District. The fine-dining establishment specializes in contemporary American cuisine and has a tidy selection of craft cocktails along with a substantial wine list. Order the four-course prix-fixe menu or go with an a la carte experience to savor Levine’s exquisite pairing of flavors and textures. The menu changes often, but you can always expect seasonal and fresh ingredients crafted to perfection. Recent menus have included filet mignon steak tartare, grilled Spanish octopus and duck confit with jumbo lump crab ragu.

 


Beau MacMillan – CALA Scottsdale

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Celebrity chef Beau MacMillan has been a fixture in Valley kitchens for more than 24 years, including a 20-year tenure at elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain. MacMillan’s Food Network appearances are numerous, including Iron Chef America, Beat Bobby Flay (which he did), Worst Cooks in America and as a judge on Guy’s Grocery Games. His latest venture, CALA, a coastal Mediterranean-inspired restaurant at the Senna House Hotel in Old Town Scottsdale, has become one of the Valley’s most popular culinary destinations. The celebrated chef oversees the kitchen, known for its handmade pastas, crusty artisan pizzas and signature dishes—tuna tartare with compressed heirloom tomatoes, capers, lemon and Mediterranean spices; and lamb koftas, fashioned from Mediterranean-spiced ground lamb wrapped around sugarcane sticks served with tzatziki sauce. The earth-toned restaurant has a beachy, casual vibe and the people watching can’t be beat.

 


Charleen Badman - FnB

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The Food Network can’t claim FnB chef/owner Charleen Badman as a contestant, but it has recognized her highly acclaimed Old Town eatery as one of Scottsdale’s best restaurants. Badman, named Best Chef Southwest by The James Beard Foundation in 2019, is known around town as the “Veggie Whisperer” because of her ability to create brilliant dishes from seasonal, locally grown vegetables. Her menu also includes first-rate meat, fish and pasta selections, and the award-winning restaurant boasts a sizeable Arizona wine list as well as a rotating list of non-Arizona wines, curated by co-owner Pavle Milic. In Badman’s spare time, she runs the Blue Watermelon Project, an organization she founded in 2017 devoted to teaching children about healthy eating.