I was at the pool at MGM Grand on Saturday for one reason only: I wanted to watch Joël Robuchon eat eight burgers.
Food & Wine magazine’s annual All-Star Weekend of events was back in Las Vegas October 4-6, saturating MGM, Aria and Bellagio with world-renowned chefs and top-flight cuisine. There was a champagne-soaked kickoff party at Aria’s View bar and an all-Asian Sunday brunch at Jasmine, just to name a few fantastic foodie happenings. The All-Star Burger Bash drew my attention, a poolside battle between eight MGM Grand restaurants.
Along with the French culinary icon Robuchon, Michael Mina and Hakkasan’s Ho Chee Boon served as the judging panel. The chef trio munched right along with those who paid $100 for a ticket to this feast, sampling slider-sized creations from Shibuya, Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, Fiamma, Craftsteak, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill and MGM’s recently revamped café, Avenue 24. Mina’s own Pub 1842 and Robuchon’s L’Atelier were also competing, which seemed sure to skew the voting. But Robuchon said the L’Atelier burger, an incredibly luscious mini topped with foie gras, received his lowest score. “Some were very interesting and had a lot of character or a lot of spice, and some were more refined,” he said through a translator. “Some were more creative than others.” Which burger did he think was most creative? “That I cannot say. I’ll make enemies.”
My vote would have gone to Shibuya’s wacky nori salmon burger, two “buns” of toasted sushi rice with a salmon “patty,” wasabi relish and asparagus slaw all wrapped into a sheet of crisp seaweed, a fresh-yet-rich flavor bomb with unprecedented textural variation. But was it a burger? I’m not sure. The champion was Pub 1842’s juicy, savory double-smoked bacon cheeseburger, loaded with smoked gouda and American cheese, a sweet sauce and a impressive slab of bacon. It’s hard to beat bacon.
I’ve never eaten eight different burgers in one afternoon before, and apparently neither had Robuchon. “In my life I have never eaten this many burgers,” he laughed. “For the moment, I’m not very hungry.”