New at The Wigwam’s Litchfield’s Restaurant

Rich in history, The Wigwam originated as a quaint lodge during the cotton ranching boom in the early 1900’s. The Wigwam later evolved into a resort in 1929. Now, renowned Chef Christopher McLean joins the team as the executive chef and beverage director, bringing a culinary vision that blends sophisticated, ranch-inspired dishes with a modern flair, paying homage to The Wigwam’s rich Southwestern heritage. As a part of the property’s renovation, Litchfield’s, The Wigwam’s signature restaurant, unveils an upgraded look, feel and new menu with the help of Chef McLean’s guidance.

Chef McLean has an extensive culinary background that started after he left the military. From working as an executive chef for a Dutch hotel group to being a personal chef for the President of Ghana and studying wine in Napa, all of his experiences have made him an extremely well-rounded chef – not to mention he is also a certified sommelier and has a pastry background.

“When I lived in West Africa, it’s not like you can pick up the phone and order things like you can in the United States. You have to make everything from scratch, which makes a great chef,” says McLean.

His culinary expertise and passion for Southwest and Native American cuisine have brought him to The Wigwam. Chef McLean is always looking for innovative ways to spice up the menu with ingredients that are good for you. “One of the reasons why I like to use something like buffalo is, yes, it has a really cool Native American aspect to it, but it’s also super good for you. Buffalo is high in iron, helps rebuild muscle quickly and is the leanest meat out there.” All of the meats at Litchfield’s, whether you order buffalo or a traditional steak, are cooked on an open-flame grill, which you can see with the exhibition kitchen set in the middle of the restaurant. This brings an open-kitchen concept to a whole new level.

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Not only is McLean finding ways to innovate the menu, but he is also curating an elevated experience for customers. “We’re about to add a chef’s table right on the cooking line where we do our plating. We are going to have four people sit and experience a five- to six-course meal with wine pairings. It lets customers be in the action.”

Litchfield’s has just launched its seasonal fall-inspired menu. Some things to look for include “rabbit pasta, buffalo tenderloin, which has never been done before at Litchfield’s, and elk. All of these dishes come together to represent Western and Native American roots.”

Chef McLean has incorporated many of his personal recipes from his diverse background into the menu at Litchfield’s. One of the most notable dishes would be his signature apple barrel. “The apple barrel is a brioche-lined cup with a beautiful apple filling. When I lived in West Africa, I made this for the Princess of Thailand for her birthday.”

The apple barrel does not disappoint. When delivered to our table, McLean said, “Julia Child liked this dish, and I hope you do too,” referring to the time he made an apple barrel for her 90th birthday. The brioche is airy, the apples are tender with a slight crunch and served with vanilla ice cream and a light caramel sauce topped with an apple chip.

In addition to being a talented chef, McLean is also a certified sommelier and is bringing his expertise to Litchfield’s. “A lot of people think that a sommelier is just about wine, but it’s truly wine, spirits, beer and cigar service. It has helped with the program here as far as cocktails and mixology go. One of the cocktails on the menu is in a Copper Coupe by Absolut Elyx, a Swedish Vodka brand. For every bottle they sell, they give a week’s worth of water to a developing nation like where I lived in Africa. I watched my cooks and friends carry water on their heads to their houses  – that’s real life in West Africa. Now, I still carry on the tradition and serve these products from Absolut Elyx to pay homage to my experiences.”

Chef McLean’s arrival at The Wigwam marks a culinary renaissance, seamlessly blending his innovative vision with the resort’s rich Southwestern history. As Litchfield’s launches its seasonal fall-inspired menu, it becomes evident that Chef McLean will transform dining into an immersive experience where history, innovation and passion converge with every dish.

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Get to know Chef McLean:

If you could only cook one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? “I love cooking scallops or buffalo short ribs. I use a braising technique called forever braising which is an overnight technique, where it comes out super moist and juicy.”

Who is your favorite person you have cooked for? “I got to spend a lot of time with the whole crew of The Lone Ranger, so I think my favorite person would be Johnny Depp. He was the most gracious guy. However, the most interesting person I have cooked for is the Queen of Sheba. Sheba is a tribe in Eastern Africa, and she keeps the bloodline alive by living in a safe location.”

Do you have any advice for aspiring chefs? “Learn the lineage of the chef you will work for and remember that consistency is key. As they say, you are only as good as your last dish.”

Litchfield’s is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.wigwamarizona.com/dining/litchfields.

300 E. Wigwam Blvd.
Litchfield Park, AZ 85340

Photo credit: Sarah Hoag Photography

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