Up close and hungry with celebrity chefs
It’s all about access at annual food festival Vegas Uncork’d
Most weekends, the food at the Vegas outposts of famous chefs is prepared by well-trained chefs and cooks whose names you’ve never heard, employees carefully bringing a master chef’s vision to bear one ticket at a time. But for one weekend a year, the folks whose names grace the doorways at multi-million-dollar restaurants up and down the Strip will actually be wearing their whites and running their kitchens for the annual food festival Vegas Uncork’d.
The four-day festival held over Mother’s Day weekend May 6-9 pairs two important ingredients: celebrity chefs and foodies (the voracious demographic whose total devotion to all things delicious turned chefs into rock star-style celebrities in the first place). Vegas Uncork’d isn’t just a Rolling Stones concert; it’s hearing the Brits play a private club with only 60-odd seats.
“If you want to see Bobby Flay and you go to South Beach Food and Wine event, you might see Bobby 100 yards away on a culinary stage doing a demo,” explains Uncork’d Executive Director Rob O’Keefe. “Here, if you’re buying a ticket to go to Mesa Grill where Bobby himself will be there and serving, it’s only for 35 people. It’s not Bobby Flay across the football field, it’s Bobby putting your plate of food down in front of you.”
Access is the key word at Uncork’d, even more perhaps than food, sous vide or any other buzzy culinary term du jour. Held in conjunction with Bon Appetit magazine, the festival offers up chefs like Bobby Flay, Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon and Charlie Trotter all within reach of anyone who buys a ticket to one of the Masters’ Series dinners or other chef-hosted events scattered throughout the weekend.
So far, it seems to be working. In 2009, as high-end restaurants around the country were taking a financial beating, Vegas Uncork’d sales were up 17 percent.
Of course, tickets for that kind of access don’t last long. Flay’s May 6 Masters’ Series dinner is already sold out, as is Guy Savoy’s dinner co-hosted by Bon Appetit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild. Tickets to other events — including a culinary demonstration and lunch with Robuchon at L’Atelier ($135); a celebrity blackjack tournament at Encore with chefs Paul Bartolotta, David Burke, Cat Cora, Alain Ducasse and Alex Stratta, to name a few ($350 to play); and the annual Grand Tasting held at Caesars Palace’s Garden of the Gods ($175 in advance, $195 at the door) — are still available at VegasUncorked.com.
With wine, food and the people famous for making it all in the mix, the only thing missing from the festival are Las Vegans. According to O’Keefe, 72 percent of last year’s ticket holders came from out of town, something that doesn’t alarm the executive director.
“We developed this notion to do something that would plant a flag in the ground on a national, if not international, level that Las Vegas was the epicenter of culinary excitement in the world,” O’Keefe says. “It’s been my intention from the beginning that Vegas Uncork’d be a national event, not a locals’ event.”
That vision certainly has been realized, but for locals with a passion for food, Vegas Uncork’d represents a chance to meet the people who’ve created some of the city’s best restaurants. Their doors may be open every day, but this delicious opportunity only comes once a year.
Curtsy : http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2010/feb/15/close-and-hungry-celebrity-chefs/