At the helm of Montelucia Resort & Spa’s impressive food and beverage program is Executive Chef Michael Cairns. Whether preparing for a party of five or a party of 5,000, Cairns brings a creative approach to dining and offers guests more than 30 years of consulting experience on numerous culinary endeavors. Cairns oversees five dining venues at Montelucia, including the resort’s signature AAA Four Diamond restaurant, Prado, and the resort’s newest eatery, CENTRO Lounge.
Prior to joining Montelucia at the beginning of 2012, Cairns served as Executive Chef at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, where he managed 11 kitchens (including banquets and restaurants), a staff of 125 culinarians (cooks and sous chefs) and 75 stewards. On a typical day, he and his crew prepared breakfast for 2,000 guests, lunch for 2,000 and dinner for 5,000 – or more than a million covers in a year. Cairns also had experience running his own catering business, Urban Chefs AZ, for four years with clients ranging from major banquet facilities, upscale restaurants, and special events, including “Phoenix Cooks,” Arizona’s premier food and wine event.
Cairns has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including being honored at the prestigious James Beard House in New York in 2004. In 2003, he was recognized for his culinary skills with the “Best Chef” Critic’s Choice Award at the Vail Wine & Food Festival, above top chefs from across the country in a competition judged by leading food and wine writers. Over the years, has been chosen to represent Phoenix at many Convention & Visitors Bureau events with Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazines across the United States, promoting local farms producing products from shrimp, tomatoes, goat cheese, lamb and other products. He is currently a Chef spokesperson for Euro-Fresh Farms in Wilcox, Arizona.
Cairns’ additional credits range from corporate executive chef at Chateau Elan Hotels & Resorts, which has luxury properties in California, Florida, Georgia and Scotland, to executive chef of the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida. His career also includes stints at the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa in Maui, Hyatt Grand Champions in Palm Springs and the Hyatt in Sacramento. Cairns has a special skill in understanding the client, whether it’s a high-end leisure guest or a well-traveled meeting planner. He believes that the creative process begins with the guest:
“You have to first understand what customers are looking for, what will satisfy them, and then you can put your personality into a dish. Innovation comes from studying trends and experimenting with flavors and textures.”