Las Vegas has become a hotbed for celebrity chefs. It used to be (in the last century) that Vegas was known for its elaborate buffets and not for its high cuisine. Of course, there were upscale order-from-the-menu restaurants, like Andre’s, but these kinds of places were not the norm. Hungry gamblers and revelers piled into buffet restaurants for all-you-can-eat king crab, sliced roast beef, and all those starchy side dishes–petite portions gussied up in a contemporary manner probably would have gone over like a fart in church back in those days. Now, artfully designed dishes can be found up and down the Strip. Here’s a look at some chefs that have helped to redefine Vegas fare, and some that are up and coming.
1) Andre Rochat
Chef Andre Rochat’s name is synonymous with fine French dining in Vegas. He is truly the city’s first celebrity chef, earning this accolade not long after debuting his namesake restaurant in Vegas in 1980. Since then, Rochat, who hails from the French Alps and cut his teeth at some of France’s best restaurants, has built a small restaurant empire in the City of Sin. Rochat debuted Alizé in 2001, on the 56th floor of the Palms Casino and Resort–many critics say this restaurant is his crown jewel, overlooking the sparkling Strip. Rochat’s cuisine is contemporary yet simple, delineated with dishes such as green peppercorn filet mignon situated in a mote of cognac cream.
2) Joel Robuchon
Award-winning French chef Joel Robuchon hasn’t been in Vegas long, yet he has made a seriously big splash since arriving there in 2005, when he debuted his namesake restaurant in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. This contemporary French restaurant boasts a high pedigree, thanks to the three stars he received from the Michelin Guide for his namesake restaurant in France. With the help of his executive chef Claude Le Tohic, Robuchon has turned Joel Robuchon Las Vegas into a culinary wonderland, with dishes like sea urchin and octopus in seaweed gelée and pan-seared sea scallops in kumquat-caviar sauce.
3) Marco Proceddu
Marco Proceddu is another European chef making it big in Vegas. Proceddu, who is only in his late twenties, was raised in the restaurant industry on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Starting at the age of 10, he worked in his father’s small restaurant, before going on to cook at several four-star resorts in Europe. He eventually made his way to Vegas, where he was sous chef at Desert Inn’s Portofino and La Scala at the MGM Grand. He was recently tapped as the executive chef at Francesco’s at Treasure Island. This contemporary Mediterranean restaurant has quickly become known for its relatively affordable fare on the Strip. Proceddu’s cuisine is simple yet contemporary–ingredient -driven fare that relies on fresh seafood, seasonal vegetables, good olive oil, and risotto. Expect to see his star rising in the coming years.
4) Isaac Carter
Not all celebrity chefs in Vegas are European, as evidenced by the successes of American chefs such as Bradley Ogden, Emeril Lagasse, and Todd English–all of which have famous eateries in Vegas, as well as elsewhere in the U.S. But as the popularity of these star chefs rises, and their schedules become busier, they have to rely heavily on a stable of talented chefs to run their restaurants. One such chef is Isaac Carter, Todd English’s golden boy at Olives in Las Vegas. This young chef, who was raised in Boston, left Temple University in Philadelphia to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He eventually was picked by English to run Olives in the Bellagio, where he turns out contemporary Mediterranean fare with no shortage of flair. Carter favors seasonal ingredients that end up in dishes such as the decadent pan-roasted foie gras steak and seared sea scallops striped with golden raisin jam.
5) Zach Allen
A chef has to possess lots of talent, and personality, to be given the reigns of Mario Batali’s restaurants in Las Vegas, and Zach Allen seems to fit the bill. This young chef, who is in his early thirties, runs Carnevino, Enoteca San Marco, and B&B; Ristorante–three Vegas ventures owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Not only does Allen run the meat curing programs–prosciutto, culatello, salami–for the restaurants in Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles, he mostly writes the Italian menus in Vegas. Allen is known for his inventive Mediterranean fare, using ingredients like zucchini blossoms, fava leaves, and ginger on his seasonal menus. Critics have heavily lauded him for dishes such as Averna pork with cucumber-ginger salad and lobster crudo cotto.
6) Anthony Amoroso
Anthony Amoroso cut his teeth working for several East Coast hotels, before venturing out West. This young chef eventually ended up working for Rick Moonen (his admitted mentor) at the famous RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay in Vegas. After leaving RM Seafood, Amoroso was tapped as executive chef at the impeccable Michael Mina in the Bellagio, where he puts out highly refined contemporary French fare. He likes to let his ingredients shine, with dishes such as pancetta-wrapped quail with brown butter jus and almond milk foam. Subtlety is the name of the game with this up and coming chef–nuances atop nuances, prepared in an ornate manner.
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