Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Top Chef and MGM culinary stars’ ultimate food and wine feast
Today’s top culinary constellation came from across America and halfway around the world for the three-day Food & Wine and Top Chef All-Stars festival hosted at Aria and Bellagio. It was a powerhouse summit of celebrated kitchen kings, queens and primetime personalities.
It also was a 72-hour extravaganza with a sellout crowd of 450 foodies getting up close and personal with their culinary heroes and glittering giants of the gourmet globe. There were parties, dinners, brunches, classes and a poolside extravaganza where 50 chefs and cooks prepped, executed and served a dizzying array of taste treats from 14 food stations.
Top Chef judge and Just Desserts host Gail Simmons told me: “I came to Vegas the first time seven years ago, and the city in terms of food has totally changed. In the last four or five years, the standards have just kept getting higher and higher, and there’s no limit in sight with your culinary stars.
“It’s an extraordinary craft, and Vegas has just shot to the top in the past six years. Our television shows have gone up, too. Now even kids want to cook in the kitchen. It’s no longer enough just to be a good chef. You have to talk, cook, be multidimensional -- you can’t stay behind the kitchen door anymore.
“We’ve helped up those standards with our shows. We’ve learned there are way more cooks than chefs. To find a true chef among them is a rare quality. I’m very proud of our authentic reality TV. Our drama has always been about the food itself. We swung open the door to the kitchen, and our viewers now fully know what it takes to be a star chef.
“We had an amazing time last year with the first festival, so I’m not only happy to be part of the festivities again, but glad it’s become bigger and better.”
The “First Course” kicked off with a contingent of top chefs and restaurateurs at View Bar in Aria that included Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Masa Takayama, Shawn McClain, Julian Serrano, Sirio Maccioni, Pierre Gagnaire (who flew in from Paris) and Top Chef alumni Hosea Rosenberg (Season 5 winner), Stephanie Izard (Season 4 winner), Angelo Sosa and Sam Talbot and Food & Wine’s Anthony Giglio. Among the delectable delicacies were Julian Serrano’s lobster-pineapple skewers, Sage’s foie gras brulee and Bar Masa’s seafood ceviche.
The revelry continued at the “Second Course” at Union for an All-Star Nightcap, an after-party of frozen coconut bites and chocolate cremeux from Top Chef Just Desserts Season One winner Yigit Pura. Day Two featured Sage Chef Shawn McClain and Anthony hosting “A New American Lunch” at Sage in Aria, while Gail and Stephanie joined Bellagio Wine Director Jason Smith to present the “Luxe Lunch” at Tuscany Kitchen in Bellagio.
The main event was a blockbuster at Aria with culinary creations served poolside from some of the world’s hottest food stars: Michael Mina, Jean-Philippe Maury, Julian, Masa, Jean-Georges, Pierre and Sirio and his sons. Hosea, Sam, Stephanie, Yigit and Angelo also impressed palates with delicious fare. Who knows how many of them will open outposts here? It’s a sure bet -- check out photographer Tom Donoghue’s amazing photo gallery to understand why.
Gail couldn't have said it better as she toasted: “Eat, drink and live it up!” Foodies found inventive takes on glazed pork belly from Shawn; goat and peanut Thai-style stew by Stephanie; shrimp and grits skewers by Michael; braised short ribs by Bar Masa; Alaskan king crab and leek salad by Sirio; truffle cheese fritters by Jean-Georges; and fish tacos with avocado and lime from Sam. Yigit, who was all smiles as he raved about his latest venture set to open in San Francisco next May, served extraordinary sweet creations to guests.
The all-tar food festival weekend ended with a Champagne and Caviar Brunch hosted by Anthony at Jasmine overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. Dare I say the Peking duck slices were the best I’ve ever tasted anywhere in the world?
Hosea, who set out to be an astrophysicist and put himself through engineering school by working in chefs kitchens before giving up one mix of recipes for the other, summed up at brunch: “This has been fabulous. Working with the Bellagio team has been fantastic; they are the experts. People loved our food with lots of positive feedback. It’s been great working with Gail again. People always ask me if she’s really that sweet. I go on record saying, ‘She is one of the nicest people to know. Life is good with her in it.’ ”
Everybody agreed that the weekend was a total success, and fanatics are already booking for next year’s third annual feast.
L.A. Food & Wine Festival
By Don Chareunsy
Las Vegas was well represented at the inaugural L.A. Food & Wine Festival at Nokia Plaza’s L.A. Live from Oct. 13-15. Chef Wolfgang Puck was onsite with a number of his Las Vegas chefs, including Eric Klein (Spago at Caesars Palace) and Stephen Lewandowski. Chefs Kerry Simon (Simon in Palms Place and KGB in Harrah’s) and Luciano Pellegrini (Valentino in the Venetian) also took part.
Incidentally, Simon’s new restaurant Market is at L.A. Live, while Puck recently opened his Wolfgang Puck 24 on the 24th floor of the adjoining Ritz-Carlton (I snapped photographs of a chandelier and orchids inside the Ritz-Carlton en route to W.P. 24 because they were pretty.)
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas brought a slice of its grandeur to L.A. Food & Wine with a popular two-level mobile haven that offered guests cocktails, Illy espresso and Art-o-matic blocks of art. Guests, among them Las Vegas regulars, included Puck, Adrienne Maloof and Kyle Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Top Chef alumni Antonia Lofaso and Casey Thompson, Chris Cosentino, David Myers, Hubert Keller, Michael Mina, Scott Conant and DJ ?uestlove of The Roots (?uestlove is DJ’ing at Heidi Klum’s Halloween party at Tao in the Venetian on Saturday night).
Wine, of course, was abundant at L.A. Food & Wine, and pork belly ruled the night at the chefs stations. Headliners Train, with frontman Pat Monahan (wearing the tightest gray skinny jeans ever -- how does he breathe?) -- kept the atmosphere appropriately festive and upbeat. (Train performs at Andre Agassi’s Grand Slam gala fundraiser at the Wynn on Saturday night.)
All in all, the first L.A. Food & Wine was a great success. Kudos!
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.