More arts and entertainment
It was a frantic and frenetic four days of feasting at the 6th Annual Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit festival of food and fine wines at four of our Strip resort casinos. In all, more than 30 events were packed into 96 hours with more than 60 restaurants, 50 celebrated chefs and 30 sommeliers, and my assignment was to cover nearly everything from last Thursday to Sunday.
Fortunately, I know most of the chefs and owners as friends from my days of launching The Food Network. I just about succeeded in making every event. Thank goodness the running from one hotel to the next was exercise to knock off some of the pounds amassed from nonstop morning-to-night brunches, lunches, cocktails, dinners, food trucks and midnight snacks.
Looking back at the myriad of menus, the catalogs of calories, the stacks of steaks, the fleets of fish, the tons of tuna, the loads of lunches, the delectable dinners and the divine desserts, this was extraordinary excess with a capital E. It’s really tough to pick favorites, but I’ll try in my wrap-up of the head-spinning, tummy-turning fabulous festivities.
The excitement began at Caesars Palace, where even Emperor Augustus Caesar was decked out in appropriate costume. Day 1 started with my longtime friend, famed celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, marking the 20th anniversary of Spago at Caesars with a luncheon for VIP guests, followed by the “Saber-Off” celebration for the official kickoff. That first night, there were no less than five Master Chef Dinners presented by Francois Payard, Bobby Flay, Michel Richard, Guy Savoy and the Pellegrino family at Rao’s.
Just when you think that magnificence couldn’t be topped, along came Gordon Ramsay to open his Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris and Nobu Matsuhisa to announce the October and November openings of his hotel and restaurant Nobu at Caesars.
Tickets were in high demand for chef Jose Andres’ paella lunch at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Day 2, but the supreme session was the two-hour-long demonstration lunch by “Top Chef Masters” stars Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, known as Too Hot Tamales, at their Border Grill in Mandalay Bay.
Of course, nothing could beat the all-star turnout of more than 60 chefs, restaurateurs and sommeliers at the nearly three-hour-long Grand Tasting at the Garden of the Gods pool oasis at Caesars. The culinary masters served signature dishes with wines and spirits from booths set up around the pools. The night wasn’t over because the celebrity chef poker tournament had to call “shuffle up” and “aces high” at Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan.
On Day 3, I visited chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his beautiful wife, Marja, at his Prime in the Bellagio for their “Couple That Cooks Together” luncheon. Her Korean food knowledge meshed fusion style with his French-Thai cooking was such a winner, I now understand why East Coast food writers are predicting that Korean food will be this year’s next big trend. It also is where I unearthed the extraordinary story of Marja’s near lifelong search for her father after she was left at age 3 in a Korean orphanage by her single mom.
My Las Vegas Sun colleague Ron Sylvester sat in with master pastry chef Francois Payard to learn everything possible about making chocolate dreams come true. How either of us had energy left to race up to Mix atop The Hotel at Mandalay Bay to learn the “Nature of a Good Party” from author and Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse is beyond belief.
The crowning event for the night, though, was the nearly three-hour Surfside Beach Clambake at Mandalay Bay Beach, where chef Charlie Palmer carved a side of meat that seemed even larger than he stands tall.
Charlie was back on duty for the first Mother’s Day brunch on the final Day 4 at his Aureole, and Guy Savoy continued the champagne flowing in his restaurant at Caesars. I decided to go casual with Frank Pellegrino Jr. in the outdoor patio for his Italian brunch and barbecue at Rao’s.
Four fabulous days of food, fun and friendship with the greatest lineup of chefs ever assembled on the Strip -- maybe anywhere in the world -- in a two-mile block. I sat with new friends from the Midwest, Canada and England. Folks from Vancouver, B.C., and Calgary summed it up best: “This has to be the only place on Earth where you’d find so many famous chefs all of whom are happy to serve you their very own favorite meals. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
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.