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Three Square Food Bank Gets Uncork'd

I saved the final post Tasting Las Vegas is going to do about the 2010 Vegas Uncork’d festivities for what I felt was the most important.  Before the masses flocked to Caesars Palace to gorge at the Grand Tasting, and before the top of a champagne bottle was sabred off like Darth Vader did to his boy’s hand, a large group of chefs went to the Three Square Food Bank to learn about the great work they do there and to also lend a helping hand.

Vegas Uncork'd Chefs Visit Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Vegas Uncork'd Chefs Visit Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Three Square is a non-profit organization that provides baked goods, produce, dairy, non-perishable products and ready-to-eat meals to other non-profits as well as faith-based organizations.  Through programs such as “Backpacks for Kids” which provides food to Clark County School District children that are unable to get adequate food over the weekends and “Neighbors for Nutrition,” which helps the kids get the food they need during the summer when school is out, Three Square is one of the most important and treasured charitable groups in the Las Vegas valley.

The USDA estimates that 10.5% of Nevada residents suffer from “food insecurity,” meaning they struggle with hunger.  What is even more startling, is that 1 out of every 5 children in Nevada live in these food insecure households, meaning both their physical and mental development could be inhibited. Nearly 150,000 students in the Clark County School District are in need of free or reduced-priced lunches.  The CCSD also estimates that about 4,800 students are homeless.  These children are in desperate need of assistance, and that is where Three Square comes to the rescue.

In December of 2007, the 50,000 square foot Three Square Food Bank opened with an additional 70,000 square foot facility opening next to it in May of 2008.  Last year, Three Square distributed over 17.4 million pounds of food, feeding over 214,000 people!  It’s through generous grants by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the Lincy Foundation and of course the hard work and generosity of hundreds of dedicated private donors, staff and volunteers that allow Three Square to touch the lives of so many.  Three Square is also the charitable organization that Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood is representing on this season of Top Chef Masters, not only directly benefiting with a few wins under his belt, but giving it the national attention this great organization deserves.

On Thursday May 6th, chefs from many of Las Vegas’ finest restaurants visited Three Square.  The Official Photographer of Tasting Las Vegas, Kevin Stout, was on hand and took some great photos of the event.  The following are a mix of Kevin’s fine photos and a few of my quick iPhone disasters.  To find out what you can do to help with Three Square, visit their website at http://ThreeSquare.org and follow them on Twitter at @ThreeSquareLV.  Enjoy!

Three Square Food Bank

Three Square Food Bank

Chefs Assemble to Learn About Three Square

Chefs Assemble to Learn About Three Square

Three Square President & CEO, Julie Murray, Greets the Chefs

Three Square President & CEO, Julie Murray, Greets the Chefs (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs tour Dry Goods Warehouse at Three Square

Chefs tour Dry Goods Warehouse at Three Square

Worker at Three Square Explains the Dry Goods Sorting Process (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Worker at Three Square Explains the Dry Goods Sorting Process (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs Inspecting and Sorting Dry and Canned Goods at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs Inspecting and Sorting Dry and Canned Goods at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Frank Pellegrino Inspecting a Can of SpaghettiO's at Three Square

Frank Pellegrino Inspecting a Can of SpaghettiO's at Three Square

Pack O' Crackers at Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Pack O' Crackers at Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Three Square Volunteer Explains the Tricks of the Trade (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Three Square Volunteer Explains the Tricks of the Trade (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chef Carla Pellegrino Meets Chef Boyardee at the Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chef Carla Pellegrino Meets Chef Boyardee at the Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs Tour Kitchen Facilities at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs Tour Kitchen Facilities at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Prepping Melon for Fruit Salad at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Prepping Melon for Fruit Salad at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Working the Meatloaf Sandwich Line at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Working the Meatloaf Sandwich Line at Three Square (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chef Martin Heierling of Silk Road and Sensi explaining what’s happening with the sandwiches:

Fruit Cups Ready for Meal Boxes at Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Fruit Cups Ready for Meal Boxes at Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs Boxing Up Meals for Kids at Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chefs Boxing Up Meals for Kids at Three Square Food Bank (photo by: Kevin Stout)

One Last Moment of Inspiration Before Exiting the Three Square Facilities

One Last Moment of Inspiration Before Exiting the Three Square Facilities

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Three Square Food Bank

4190 N. Pecos Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89115

(702) 644-FOOD (3663)

http://ThreeSquare.org

Follow Three Square on Twitter at @ThreeSquareLV

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

The Chefs of Vegas Uncork'd: Out of the Kitchen

While most of the outside world perceives the city limits of Las Vegas to not exceed the boundaries of Las Vegas Boulevard (between Sahara and Russell, that is), we residents know there is so much more to our little twinkle in the desert.  I remember when The Wife and I first moved to Vegas almost 6 years ago from Upstate NY like it was yesterday.  People asked, “Why would you want to move there?!?  There’s only strippers and degenerate gamblers that live in Las Vegas!”   Well, to my uninformed friends of the Finger Lakes, as the events of Vegas Uncork’d showcased; we are not only a town of strippers and degenerate gamblers, but we also have a whole bunch of chefs!

A Whole Bunch of Chefs at Vegas Uncork'd

A Whole Bunch of Chefs at Vegas Uncork'd

Like the chefs of the relatively new restaurants on The Strip, most of our fellow 2,000,000 residents are new to living in Las Vegas.  While you’ll find the occasional proud person that was born and raised here, most of us moved here at some point to escape the excruciating boredom of reality, the arctic chill of points north, the mirage of endless career opportunities (pre-2008) or a mix of the three.  The Wife and I moved here so our pipes wouldn’t freeze in the winter (both literally and figuratively).  Rick Moonen moved here to open a 17,000 square foot restaurant.  We all have our reasons.

Rick Moonen of RM Seafood and Shawn McClain of Sage

Rick Moonen of RM Seafood and Shawn McClain of Sage

I asked a few of the chefs at Vegas Uncork’d that now reside here what they like to do when they’re not behind the flames in the kitchen. Shawn McClain of Sage at Aria (who moved out here since before the opening of Sage in December, but will be returning to Chicago) and Kerry Simon of Simon at Palms Place both enjoy the natural beauty of Red Rock Canyon quite a bit.

Apparently Kerry Simon is in this picture

Apparently Kerry Simon is in this picture

Hiking and nature walking is a biggie out here for Vegas residents.  I never knew so many hikers in my life until we moved out here.  I don’t even like to walk to the mailbox to get the mail, so hiking is not part of The Wife and I’s Sunday morning repertoire.  But, we have driven around the loop of Red Rock Canyon several times in the comfort of sitting down in crisp air conditioning and have always found it to be enjoyable.

Me interviewing Bobby Flay (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Me interviewing Bobby Flay (photo by: Kevin Stout)

While Chef Simon also said he likes to go running and to also go up to Mount Charleston to go snowboarding in Lee Canyon, Food Network superstar and chef of Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay, was much more on my page when he told me that he likes to play dice and go to nightclubs.  I, too, am a fan of dice, and I’ve also been known to play a hand of poker or two.  Ok, so maybe I have a mild obsession with poker, although I haven’t been able to play much since this little Tasting Las Vegas project has begun, to which The Wife thanks each and every one of our fabulous readers.

Three Time Winner of Vegas Uncork'd Celebrity Chef Blackjack Tournament, Paul Bartolotta

Three Time Winner of Vegas Uncork'd Celebrity Chef Blackjack Tournament, Paul Bartolotta

Speaking of fellow degenerate gamblers, I can only assume Paul “Rain Man” Bartolotta likes to play a little 21 in his spare time with his triumphant threepeat as the Vegas Uncork’d Celebrity Chef Blackjack Tournament Champion.  I asked Chef Bartolotta what his secret is, and he said that it’s all “luck.”  Uh-huh …“luck.” All I know is that I’m not going to pester Bartolotta 10 minutes to Wapner anytime soon.

Rick Moonen with The Wife

Rick Moonen with The Wife

When he’s not being a reality TV star, Rick Moonen of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay enjoys cycling among the mountains of his new neighborhood on the northern edge of town.  He’s also excited about his new organic garden he started in his backyard (yeah, you can do that in Las Vegas).  Of course, one of Chef Moonen’s primary passions is his advocacy for sustainable seafood, which he has been adamant about for the last 25 years, before it was cool to care about the environment.  I asked Rick what got him into the cause and he told me back when he was still a New Yorker and shopping for seafood at the Fulton Street Fish Market, he was seeing the swordfish shrink before his eyes, and that something had to be done.  He got involved with some of the NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) that were on the responsible fishing soapbox early on and the rest, as they say, is Leave-the-Bluefin-Alone History.

Obviously not going to get any scandalous admissions of frequenting the Green Door by these chefs, I asked them where they like to eat in town.  Apparently I should have kept the questions to the subject of ball gags and assless chaps, as this was the most controversial question of all.  Everybody squirmed when I asked them what their favorite places to eat were in town, and it is certainly understandable.  After some brief probing (meaning questioning), I managed to squeeze out of a few names of places from the chefs.  As I am not in the gotcha journalism business, nor do I wish to end friendships as a few guys put on the spot forgot to give a shoutout to their buddy’s food joint, I’ll just list restaurants that were mentioned of the many chefs I talked with over the few days of Vegas Uncork’d.

Ichiza - Just one of the gems on Spring Mountain Road

Ichiza - Just one of the gems on Spring Mountain Road

On The Strip, Akira Back’s Yellowtail at the Bellagio got a nod, as did Bradley Ogden at Caesars Palace and Aureole at Mandalay Bay.  Off the Strip, the restaurants of Spring Mountain Road got big props with a nearly unanimous vote of Raku among other mentions of Ichiza and Honey Pig.  Also a serious rave was given to Spring Mountain Road area China MaMa as a restaurant that is as “legit as legit gets.”  An Asian place away from our Chinatown was the much beloved Thai food of Lotus of Siam (conveniently located near The Green Door, I’m just sayin’).

It wasn’t just cuisine from the Orient that was tickling the chefs’ collective fancies.  Firefly got a shoutout for it’s reasonably priced and very tasty Spanish tapas as did Lindo Michoacan for it’s authentic South of the Border fare.  For the late night burrito fix, Fausto’s got a nod and when the chefs were in the mood for cloth napkins, one mentioned Vintner Grill over in Summerlin.  Also receiving a few tips of the hat was Kuldeep Singh’s refined Indian flavors at Origin India.

Yes, I have decided to keep the anonymity of which chefs said which restaurants, but I must take this time to single out Kerry Simon for an admission to liking Las Vegas pizza.  Yeah, don’t worry…..I asked him if he was shitting me for you.

While tales of hiking, running and bike riding may have made me feel my usual 90 seconds of guilt, I was happy to see a whole bunch of chefs I have great respect for also like a lot of the same food that I do.  I guess that makes sense.  I think Rick Moonen said it best when he said, “I think the top ten restaurants in Vegas can compete with the top ten restaurants anywhere in the world.”  This was certainly evident throughout the events of Vegas Uncork’d.

While my lazy ass may not run into a culinary legend on a trail in Red Rock Canyon anytime soon, who knows…maybe one of these nights Bobby Flay will roll me a Yo Eleven!

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

Five Outstanding Dishes From The 2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

The culmination of all that is Vegas Uncork’d is the Grand Tasting.  Held at the gorgeous Garden of the Gods pool complex at Caesars Palace, there are over 70 chefs representing over 50 restaurants, 100 vintners and other variants of booze producers with 2,300 people loosening their belts ready gorge on a whole bunch of delicious bites, all the while rubbing elbows (or throwing full blown body checks) with the amazing chefs that cook them.  In a word; it’s unfuckingbelievable. (please pardon, it’s the only French word I know)

2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace

2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace

Going from booth to booth, juggling empty plastic plates and cups and trying to navigate through a sea of people, I severely failed in the photo and note taking department.  With the throngs of people pushing their way to the front of Restaurant Guy Savoy’s booth as if the Artichoke Black Truffle Soup shooter came with a live performance by The Beatles, I found that the priority of life preservation deemed more of a dine and dash technique rather than getting all Ansel Adams on the food.

Fountains in the middle of Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

Fountains in the middle of Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

Although I don’t have photographic evidence that all but one of these dishes even existed, I can only hope that my sensationalized prose will adequately paint the picture.  Keep in mind that I don’t know if this is what the chefs actually called these dishes, but this is what I remember from the best of my ability to remember such things.  Without further adieu, here are Five Outstanding Dishes from the 2010 Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting:

5.) Shrimp Tempura Roll with Yuzu, Miso and Eel Sauce from Wazuzu

Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu

Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu

So this is one of the dishes that stuck in my memory even though about 15 minutes after I ate it I couldn’t remember what the hell was in it. I remember that I loved it and why I loved it.  Through the magic of the internet, I got the details from Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu himself.  Beyond the flavor, which was masterfully put together, the most extraordinary thing about this bite of food was the texture brought on by the bubu arare or Japanese Rice Pearls.  The bubu arare, crunchy rice pellets about the size of Dippin Dots, coated the outside of the roll.  It was like a little dog with a studded collar; cute yet with a don’t-mess-with-my-shit aura.  This dish to me personified how I view Tila’s cuisine; traditional Pan-Asian cuisine with a dash of unapologetic attitude.  I like that.

4.) King Crab Stick from Joël Robuchon

Executive Chef of Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand, Claude le Tohic (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Executive Chef of Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand, Claude le Tohic (photo by: Kevin Stout)

At first glance, the King Crab Stick offered up by James Beard Award Foundation Winner Chef Claude le Tohic seemed simple enough, but then you put it in your mouth and wonder how the hell he did it.  At about the girth and length of a golf pencil, he managed to wrap a perfectly flaky, impossibly thin buttery crust around lusciously sweet King Crab.  It was extraordinary, and among the barrage of tartares and crudos at every turn, it was one of the most technically perfect bites of food at the entire shindig.

3.) Lamb and Olive Sliders by Cat Cora

Chef Cat Cora on the Red Carpet of the 2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

Chef Cat Cora on the Red Carpet of the 2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

Listen, I know it isn’t cool to like sliders anymore, but I don’t give a shit.  I like sliders and can rarely get enough of them.  In my opinion, the cheeseburger is the greatest food known to man and the slider is fabulous because of the ability to try multiple renditions of this greatest food known to man at the same sitting.  Don’t you look your nose down at me because all of the fancy frou-frou guys break the slider’s balls and jumped over to the ramps and pork belly bandwagon.  I, too, love me some ramps and pork belly, but there is always a place on the menu for a slider or two. Now that I think of it…why not a Ramp and Pork Belly Slider?!?

But I digress…

Known as an Iron Chef to many, but present at the Grand Tasting in her Executive Chef of Bon Appetit Magazine gig, Cat Cora banged out a magnificent dish that would make even the staunchest slider detractor crack a smile and say unto himself, “Hey, this is pretty damn good.”  Ground lamb brilliantly exploding with flavor from garlic, oregano and olives among a whole host of spices, they were serious bites of food and perfect for the occasion.  After talking with Cat (we’re now on a first name basis along with Bobby), being the Executive Chef of Bon Appetit entails pretty much what she was doing, cooking for big events like this.  Her experience in this medium of cooking was very apparent in the slider; a perfect choice that was perfectly done.

2.) Sangria Push Pops from Silk Road

Sangria Push Pops from Silk Road at 2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

Sangria Push Pops from Silk Road at 2010 Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting

It’s no secret, I love Martin Heierling’s food. He colors with spices the way Renoir did with paint.  The Sangria Push Pop, although I believe on the catering menu at Vdara and not on the dessert menu at Silk Road, was heads and shoulders the best sweet item I tasted at the Grand Tasting and one of the best ice cream flavors I’ve ever tasted.  With a burst of cinnamon up front and sweet wine in the back, the only thing keeping me from inhaling every plastic tube they put up was my own intestinal aversion to all things dairy (I did have another event to go to after this one and didn’t want to cause a spectacle).  Someone needs to call up both Ben and Jerry to let them know Martin’s Sangria should be standing along side the Chunky Monkey.

1.) Cheese Ravioli with Asparagus Cream from Sirio Ristorante

Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia of Sirio Ristorante (courtesy: vegasuncorked.com)

Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia of Sirio Ristorante (courtesy: vegasuncorked.com)

Of all the restaurants represented at the Grand Tasting that I haven’t been to in real life yet, this is the one dish that caused a must-visit-now reaction.  The best thing I ate at the Grand Tasting and one of the best bites of pasta I’ve had in quite a long time, I can’t wait to get The Wife and I in to Sirio Ristorante at the Aria resort and taste Chef Vincenzo Scarmiglia’s offerings on his home turf.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say he used a Sheep’s Milk Ricotta (as there was a brilliant funk to it) in a perfectly cooked pasta (how that happened at an event like this is beyond me) with this Asparagus cream that burst with a blooming springtime flavor.  It was impeccably paired with this gorgeous event, and quite an eye opener to what may be the sleeper restaurant in the still-struggling resort.

Overall, I couldn’t possibly recommend doing the Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting enough.  If you can handle shoulder-to-shoulder walls of humanity crowds, then there is no reason to pass up what is one of the greatest gastronomic opportunities put together on the planet.  How lucky we are here in Las Vegas to have an event of this magnitude in our backyard.  And what a beautiful backyard it is.  Next year I’ll try to actually get some pictures of the food!

—–
Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.

Vegas Uncork'd 2010 Kicked Off With A Champagne Splash

Vegas Uncork’d. Where do I even begin?  The sad thing is that I can pretty much sum up the entire experience in two words; Holy Shit! Since “Holy Shit!” doesn’t really do much for discerning readers looking for juicy details, I guess I should expand upon that thought and let the gush flow as it may.

Champagne Sabering by Alain Ducasse to Kick Off Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout

Champagne Sabering by Alain Ducasse to Kick Off Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout

What a mindblowing couple of days our little twinkle in the desert had as the greatest culinary talent on Earth flocked to the supreme parade of gluttonous pleasure that is Vegas Uncork’d.  It is a tribute to the unparalleled collection of restaurants we have here in Las Vegas that an event of this magnitude can even come together in the first place.

In case you aren’t familiar with how Vegas Uncork’d is set up, it is a festival of food that spans over four days.  From intimate meals prepared and discussed with world famous chefs, to panel discussions of what is happening in the culinary world, to the culmination of it all as over 70 chefs from 50 restaurants along with over 100 wines and spirits represented in a Grand Tasting; Vegas Uncork’d is the ultimate destination for any fan of food on the planet.

Crowd Gathers at miX in THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Crowd Gathers at miX in THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay (photo by: Kevin Stout)

High atop THE Hotel of the Mandalay Bay resort sits Alain Ducasse’s miX, which was where an official kickoff to Vegas Uncork’d was held, complete with remarks from hizzoner, Mayor Oscar Goodman, and a traditional champagne sabering (sabrage is the fancy term) done by the legendary Alain Ducasse himself.

Kevin photographed Nadia G. of Bitchin' Kitchen and Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's While I was talking with Bradley Ogden. Can you blame him? (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Kevin photographed Nadia G. of Bitchin' Kitchen and Chef Carla Pellegrino of Rao's while I was talking with Bradley Ogden. Can you blame him? (photo by: Kevin Stout)

While many wearing the Press Badges were acting like it was old hat to hobnob with all of this talent, I was perfectly comfortable gushing like a total fan boy bitch to our city’s finest cooks.  After taking in the magnificent view and a few deep breaths,  I made a beeline to Bradley Ogden to ask him about his hamburger buns.  Yes, my first interaction with the Michelin starred, winner of every award you can think of chef at Caesars Palace was a complete gush over his hamburger buns.  Well…they’re friggin’ amazing!  Anyway, he told me that they are mostly All-Purpose Flour with a little Cake Flour along with yeast, and that the glistening perfectly chewy crust (my description, patent pending) is from the egg wash and steam.  A recipe for this bun is in a soon-to-be-released cookbook he’s coming out with.  This excites me.

Chef Bobby Flay Being interviewed by some hack. (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Chef Bobby Flay Being interviewed by some hack. (photo by: Kevin Stout)

With burgers on the brain (as is usually the case), I then berated America’s Sweetheart, Bobby Flay, about when he’s going to bring his Bobby’s Burger Palace out to Las Vegas. Flay said, “I don’t know, but we need one, desperately.”  He then suggested that I start the rally cry, to which this serves as official notice that the rally cry has begun.  Are you hearing this, John Unwin of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas?  The rally cry has begun.  Another interesting point from my conversation with Bobby (we’re on a first name basis) was that he is here in Vegas to check in on his Mesa Grill every 4 to 5 weeks. He said, “This (Mesa Grill) is a very important restaurant to me. Yeah, I love coming to Vegas.”

From L-R: Guy Savoy, Jean Joho, Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire & Alain Ducasse

From L-R: Guy Savoy, Jean Joho, Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire & Alain Ducasse

The enormity of this event really set in as you see Joël Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire and Jean Joho standing in a circle and catching up on old times.  They were of course all speaking in French and being the good American that I am, I only speak English, so I have no idea what the hell they were talking about.  I could only imagine part of the conversation entailed, “Why is this fat man staring at us?” and “Did you see the perfectly engineered breasts on that cocktail waitress?  Good job, Alain.”

From L-R: Jet Tila, Rene Lenger, Masa Ishizawa, David Spero, Carlos Guia & Sam DeMarco

From L-R: Jet Tila, Rene Lenger, Masa Ishizawa, David Spero, Carlos Guia & Sam DeMarco

It wasn’t just Michelin Three Star French Chefs and Food Network stars at this kickoff event.  There were also the slightly lesser known, yet uber-talented resident chefs that serve as the backbone of Las Vegas’ gastronomic scene.  In an admittedly stalkerishly creepy way, it was fun to see the guy who to this day cooked the greatest pork chop I’ve ever eaten in my life, René Lenger of Switch, mingle with the king of my favorite late night gorge spot, Sam DeMarco of First Food and Bar, along with the Pan-Asian with attitude champion, Jet Tila of Wazuzu, and three chefs that are at the top of my to-do list (I mean finally get to eat their food, get your mind out of the gutter); Carlos Guia of the Country Club at Wynn, Masa Ishizawa of Okada and David Spero of Tableau.

Me interviewing James Beard Foundation Award Winner, Chef Claude le Tohic (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Me interviewing James Beard Foundation Award Winner, Chef Claude le Tohic (photo by: Kevin Stout)

Another Las Vegas resident chef that I got to speak with was recent James Beard Foundation Award Winner and Executive Chef of Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand, Claude le Tohic. I asked Chef le Tohic about what it was like the moment he heard his name at the JBF Awards and he said, “Receiving this special distinction from the James Beard means a lot to me. I remember when I won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France which is the highest competition in France. It was similar, very emotional.” For those not familiar with the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, it’s a big effing deal.  Even bigger for the French than a Jerry Lewis meet and greet or when Pepe le Pew finally nails the cat who inadvertently walked under a paintbrush.

Le Tohic has been here in Vegas for five years so I asked him what his thoughts were about how the Las Vegas culinary scene has developed in the short time he has called our fair town home.  Le Tohic noted, “It has become a city not only for the gaming or the shows, but now for the food.  The greatest chefs in the world are now here in Las Vegas.”  I couldn’t agree more.

The Stage is Set to Open Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout)

The Stage is Set to Open Vegas Uncork'd 2010 (photo by: Kevin Stout)

As the 40 or so chefs at this kickoff event along with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appetit Magazine (sponsor of Vegas Uncork’d), Barbara Fairchild, gathered on a make shift stage, we saw the highly decorated, celebrated and established Alain Ducasse perform a traditional champagne sabering to officially open Vegas Uncork’d.  While Chef Ducasse represents the (dare I say) old distinguished school, a few rows behind him stood the future (fingers crossed that they keep it in Las Vegas) with young gun chefs like Adam Sobel and Gerald Chin of RM Seafood.  Maybe when it comes their time to kickoff such events, they’ll laser the cap off a Rogue Dead Guy Ale…only time will tell.

Here’s video footage of Mayor Goodman’s remarks and the sabrage by Chef Ducasse:

While it must be a thrill for some of the younger chefs (and younger food writers) to meet and mingle with what time and experience deems as the greatest chefs on the planet, it’s also an opportunity for the old dogs to learn some new tricks.  Even if that new trick is just a fist bump.  By the way…after achieving this life’s goal, I will now forever refer to “Chef of the Century” Joël Robuchon as Lord J-Ro.

Lord J-Ro and Me

Lord J-Ro and Me

This event really set the tone for what was to be a truly extraordinary couple of days of gluttonous life.  This is the mere tip of the iceberg in our regaling of the food geek ecstasy that was to ensue.  A special thanks to Official Photographer of Tasting Las Vegas, Kevin Stout, for providing most of the fantastic shots you’ve seen here and will see again in our upcoming post about the chefs helping out and learning about the Three Square Food Bank.  Also special thanks go out to Erika Pope who masterfully coordinated these media events and graciously allowed our Little Shop of Horrors here at TLV to stand along side some of the most respected news and media outfits locally, nationally and abroad.

From L-R: Pierre Gagnaire, Mayor Oscar Goodman, Joël Robuchon, Carla Pellegrino, Alain Ducasse & Guy Savoy

From L-R: Pierre Gagnaire, Mayor Oscar Goodman, Joël Robuchon, Carla Pellegrino, Alain Ducasse & Guy Savoy

There is much more to show and tell! Stay tuned to Tasting Las Vegas all this week (at least) for more sensationalized tales of the greatest culinary event in the known universe, Vegas Uncork’d!

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas.