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Vegas Uncork’d Day 1: Master Series dinners, food trucks, star chefs

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Francois Payard, Wolfgang Puck and Robin Leach.
Photo: Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau

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2012 Vegas Uncork'd: Masters Series Dinners at Caesars Palace

The Meaning of Life - from YouTube.com

How do you top an opening-night salvo of five of the world’s best chefs all under one roof and 15 unique mobile food trucks just a block away? That’s how the Sixth Annual Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit feast festival got underway Thursday night, and event organizers will roll out even bigger guns today.

It was a staggering culinary adventure at Caesars Palace with the acclaimed Guy Savoy, Francois Payard, Bobby Flay, Michel Richard and the Pellegrino and Straci families at their restaurant Rao’s.

They all dazzled the foodies who filled their restaurants with sell-outs for the extraordinary fine-dining experiences. I joined rising star chef Ryan Scott when he hosted Francois Payard’s “French Elegance.” It was the first time I’ve ever had a mojito rose champagne cocktail -- delicious.

Francois started with black truffles from Perigord in France, followed with turbot and lamb for the double entree and finally amazed with a first-time-for-me pre-dessert of panna cotta followed by the “real” dessert of pineapple, tapioca parfait, coconut sorbet and pineapple chips. His trademark chocolate macaroons were piled high in ice cream glasses, and there were plenty for guests to retire home as an additional chocolate overload. Simply sensational.

Fellow French food magicians Guy and Michel also wowed with their six-course meals. Michel showed his new “Sweet Magic” cookbook and autographed copies for his admirers, and Guy opened a bottle of his most expensive red wine to celebrate at his six-course sensation including mushroom favorites he personally prepared in the kitchen.

On the American side of the Atlantic, Bon Appetit Editor in Chief Adam Rapoport hosted Bobby Flay’s four-course fantasia. Talk about spices -- Dungeness crab and New Mexico red chile bisque, a preserved duck salad with pickled peaches and a Habanero-orange dressing, BBQ braised pork shoulder and topped off with a chocolate pretzel tart served with chocolate peanut butter spicy ice cream. Bobby was bombarded by female fans and kept busy signing copies of his cookbook.

Frank Pellegrino Jr., who also unveiled his new cookbook “On the Grill,” had 11 menu items to select from for his four-course Italian feast at Rao’s. It began with roasted peppers, stuffed calamari and boards overloaded with Italian breads. Rao’s meatballs followed with fresh grenelle pasta and stuffed tortellini. Entree choices were seared scallops or veal short ribs with grilled asparagus accompaniments. Dessert was a lightly fried Italian Zeppole and a white chocolate raspberry budino.

Each of the dinners lasted nearly three hours apiece, and I managed to get to all five. Does it get any better than that? Counting calories simply goes out the window until Sunday night.

Then there was the food truck extravaganza to finish the night; 15 of the most popular food trucks were stationed along Hidden Drive at the Bellagio. Chefs Julian Serrano, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Todd English, Michael Mina and Sirio Maccioni mingled with fans enjoying the offerings from Sin City Wing, Engine 1 Pizza, Lola D’s Kitchen, Haulin’ Balls, Fatt Daddy’s Ice Cream, Rusty Pickle, Sausagefest, Redneck Kitchen and Bens BBQ. This is feasting at its finest!

With Wolfgang Puck’s 20th anniversary lunch and the chefs “Saber-Off’ on Thursday, how do you beat that first winning hand? Star chefs Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa will succeed with that challenge today. The British TV star officially opens his new Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris in a noon ceremony, and the Japanese sushi and sashimi superstar offers a peak this afternoon at his new Caesars Palace restaurant and boutique hotel opening this fall.

Incidentally, Gordon’s new season of “Hell’s Kitchen” with 18 brave contestants fires up on Fox on Monday, June 4, for a 10-week battle to find the one winner who will get the head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Steak under executive chef Kevin Hee. The show has already been filmed with the final winner being announced in the Theater des Arts at the Paris (the new home of “Jersey Boys”), but it’s top secret (for now).

Add in a paella lunch with Jose Andres at the Cosmopolitan, a live demo of south of the border taste treats by the Too Hot Tamales, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, at their Border Grill in Mandalay Bay, plus Michael Mina’s “Favorite Things” at the Bellagio, and Vegas Uncork’d is really on a roll.

Tonight, it’s capped with the Grand Tasting from more than 60 chefs and restaurants at the Garden of the Gods pool at Caesars Palace. Check back here Saturday for our report and photographs.

Chi Mangia Bene Vive Bene! (He who eats well, lives well.) That’s my excuse for indulging like the gourmand who eventually exploded in the wicked “Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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