The 2010 Vegas Uncork’d food and wine festival kicked off today at Mix at Mandalay Bay with a who’s who of Vegas chefs drinking and mingling high above the Strip. The real meat of the weekend starts with tonight’s Master’s Series Dinners held at four Caesars Palace restaurants, but the afternoon meet and greet provided plenty of interesting Uncork’d nibbles.
While the above-the-door names mugged on the red carpet outside the Mix elevators, I bumped into RM Seafood’s Adam Sobel and Bradley Ogden’s Todd Williams, who joked that someday they’d get to walk the carpets with “the real chefs.” I asked for a photo of them looking dejected, but both chefs - who go back 11 years together to their days at the Culinary Institute of America - flashed smiles. Fresh from the James Beard Awards in New York, Sobel said he was gearing up to dethrone Paul Bartolotta at the annual Celebrity Chef Blackjack tournament, held tomorrow night at the Encore pool. Watch out, Paul. Adam’s coming.
Also in the mix at Mix was new Vegas chef Shawn McClain, who opened Sage at Aria in December. McClain said he’s settling into his new town nicely, and that he was like “a kid in a candy store,” surrounded by Michelin-starred heavy weights like Pierre Gagnaire, Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon. And he wasn’t the only one paying compliments. McClain dropped that Robuchon and Gagnaire had stopped by Sage two nights in a row. That’s one hell of an endorsement.
It wasn’t all happy news with Chef Shawn, however. Chicago food journo Steve Dolinsky published today that McClain’s Bucktown seafood-focused restaurant Spring is up for sale. Asking price: $300,000. McClain seemed to be taking the news in stride, however, sighting “the cycle” restaurants go through and saying that he feels Sage has been very well received in Las Vegas. Certainly it has by two of the biggest names in the business, as well.
Also of note was Mayor Oscar Goodman, who joined Bon Appetit Editor in Chief Barbara Fairchild and the Vegas Uncork’d chefs on stage for the Champagne sabre-ing that officially marks the fest’s arrival. Clutching his ubiquitous martini, Goodman commented that Fairchild and Bon App’s Cat Cora were “his showgirls” for the event, though neither of the ladies looked in a rush to slip into some fishnets.
Finally, the event wrapped with Caesars chefs running out the door to prep for their dinners and Robuchon surrounded by reporters with his manager acting as translator. I resisted eating the Uncork’d chocolate statue. Barely. It seems Vegas Uncork’d is off to a good start. Let the meals begin!
For updates, photos and general foodie babble throughout Vegas Uncork’d, follow me on Twitter @sarahfeldberg.