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Phoenix chef heads up Yuma Lettuce Days


Phoenix chef heads up Yuma Lettuce Days
Arizona-sourced ‘celebrity’ is Omni's Michael Cairns

YUMA, ARIZONA – After ranging farther afield over the past several years, Yuma Lettuce Days is sourcing its “celebrity chef” locally this year, welcoming Michael Cairns of the Omni Scottdale Resort and Spa to headline live cooking demonstrations and talks at the annual “feastival” in 2016.

Yuma Lettuce Days takes place Feb. 27 & 28 at the University of Arizona’s Yuma Agriculture Center, a research farm just west of town.

The executive chef and food and beverage director at Montelucia, Cairns is a passionate advocate for local sourcing, as demonstrated by the “Desert to Dish” culinary weekend he introduced this fall, with farm-to-table dining, farm tours and opportunities to interact with Cairns and five visiting chefs.

That makes him a “natural” for Yuma, which during the winter months supplies more than 90 percent of North America’s leafy vegetables. An annual culinary celebration of Yuma’s role as the nation's winter vegetable capital, Lettuce Days has earned a Governor's Tourism Award as Arizona's best special event.

At Montelucia, Cairns oversees five dining venues, 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. Cairns also ran his Urban Chefs AZ catering business for four years, with clients that included “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. He has represented Phoenix at CVB events across the United States, promoting Arizona products and 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.

At Lettuce Days, Cairns will do two live cooking demonstrations each day – with selected audience members getting a chance to taste what he creates on stage.

Other activities planned for Yuma's homegrown celebration include other live cooking demonstrations and contests, a ginormous salad bar and the Recipe Box tasting event on Saturday that showcases specialties from local restaurants, plus beer and wine. New for 2016 will be a Sunday "Salud to Field Workers" event spotlighting the hard work that goes into producing Yuma's agricultural bounty. Throughout the weekend, there will be plenty of ag-related vendors on hand, live entertainment, and a special Kids Ag-tivities area, along with a petting zoo with baby farm animals. Also on the Lettuce Days menu are farm tours, demonstrations of high-tech farming equipment and methods, a “test planting” of numerous strawberry varieties and a giant flower garden that Yuma's Master Gardeners will utilize for demonstrations.

Put Arizona's freshest destination food event on your calendar now! Sure as Yuma sunshine, there will be a plate full of fun! Plans are still germinating, check for added ingredients at



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