Sebastien Silvestri came to Las Vegas as the Venetian’s executive director of food and beverage two weeks before the opening of Palazzo. That was six years ago. Now he’s vice president of F&B, a job that seems completely overwhelming right now with the annual Winter in Venice and the upcoming La Cucina Italiana food festival. But Silvestri doesn’t just corral celebrity chefs like Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck and Buddy Valastro for big-draw events; he also manages a massive restaurant program and develops new dining attractions like Batali’s upcoming burger joint and chef Daniel Boulud’s return to the Strip. Silvestri spared some precious time to chat with us.
You keep adding new events to the Winter in Venice and Carnevale festivals. How do you develop these huge events on top of the regular demands of your job? My job has evolved. I started exactly six years ago, and it flew. I feel like I just got here yesterday! Now, the two big festivals, one in summer and one in winter, do take a lot of time, but when we ask our guests what they like most, they told us it was when Mario was giving pizza away, or when Wolfgang was doing a book signing. So we look at the impact of what we’ve done and try to do it bigger and better.
The La Cucina festival is new this year. What are you most excited about? I’m already really proud of the Grand Banquet, something that’s never happened before. We’re going to have 200 people in the Colonnade at the most beautiful tables and settings you can have. Mario’s cooking, and it’s going to be just extraordinary.
That’s the space near the Venetian lobby. It sounds like a logistical nightmare. It is. From the fire marshal to egress, it’s very complex. But I have never seen anything like this anywhere, and I think it’s going to be the most beautiful thing ever. I always try to capitalize on the most beautiful spaces we have, using them to do something out of the box, creating something magical.
What else is coming up at Venetian and Palazzo? We have some great partners, from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich to Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller. Next year we’re bringing in Daniel Boulud, and we’ll have some other announcements to make soon. And in the early part of December we’ll have Mario opening B&B Burger and Beer.
How do you strategize which new partnerships to create and what kinds of experiences to bring in? There are a lot of people involved in that process, but it starts by listening to our guests, seeing what works and what people want. So many people come to these two beautiful properties and stay for the amenities and service, and a big part of that is food and beverage. If you look at how B&B [Burger and Beer] came together, the space is near the Venetian race and sports book, so you consider the people there and what kind of food they are looking for. If you want to do the best cheeseburger and the greatest beer, if you give it to Mario Batali you know you’re gonna be in good hands.
There are always a few restaurants in every casino that are a bit overlooked, sort of hidden gems. Do you have favorites? My job is to give everybody as much attention as possible. I eat at all of our restaurants and I love them all. When I want sushi I go to Sushisamba and I love the energy and vibe. If I’m looking for great Japanese Kobe beef—if I can afford it—I go to Wolfgang’s Cut, because it’s the best of the best. I go to Aquaknox just to have the bouillabaisse. Everything is so complementary, and all of the restaurants have their own signature dishes and experience. It just depends what you’re in the mood for.
Is there a type of cuisine or a restaurant concept you’d like to bring to Venetian/Palazzo that hasn’t come together yet? You know, I’m French, so with Daniel coming here, I’m going to be good. You will see next year, we have some great new additions to complement what we already have. It just keeps getting better.