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Dining

Orleans Arena chef Gil Morales is ready for the Las Vegas Wine & Food Festival

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Gil Morales has been executive chef at Orleans Arena for five years now.
Photo: Nikki Villoria

Another October weekend, another poolside food fest. The Las Vegas Wine & Food Festival will feature tons of grub from Honey Salt, Capital Grille, Tao, Cantina Laredo, Andrea’s, Firefly, Origin India, Bachi Burger and many more local restaurants at the Red Rock Resort this Saturday, October 12. Familiar fare and notable chefs will be in abundance, but these one-stop dine-around events also provide ample opportunity for some of the city’s under-the-radar food and beverage professionals, too.

Gil Morales falls into that category. You might assume the chef at Orleans Arena is used to churning out nachos and hot dogs, but Morales is a kitchen veteran who’s worked all over the country. He opened the Warner Bros. Stage 16 restaurant at Venetian way back before the space was transformed into Tao, and the California native is breaking new ground at the arena with a specialty concessions stand focused on more refined food.

What will you be serving at this weekend’s food festival? Last year we did shrimp and avocado salad but served it martini-style, with fire-roasted pineapple salsa. It went over really well. We did it for 800 and actually ran out of food at the end. So this year we’re planning for 1,000. Angus sliders with blue cheese, frisee and balsamic caramelized onions.

Sounds a lot fancier than what we usually eat at a sporting event. Yes.

Look for chef Gil Morales' sliders this Saturday at the Las Vegas Wine & Food Festival.

Is it exciting to participate in these festival events because you get to cook food outside of the normal menu at Orleans Arena? It’s a lot of fun, and I really like to hang out with the other crews and check out the wineries and breweries and other vendors participating. And it’s a little easier for us to do it than some restaurants, because we don’t have to close down or anything—it’s basically something we’re doing on a day off.

But I don’t really have a lot of [restriction at Orleans Arena]. Anywhere you go, you have to do tastings for your [bosses] and we do that here, too. Everyone has been on board with what we’re doing and trying to do.

What are you serving at your new upgraded concessions stand at the arena? Basically it’s restaurant food at a fast food pace. We’re doing chicken pot pie and teriyaki bowls with beef or chicken. We’re doing a Monte Cristo sandwich, but making it a little healthier by not frying it. There’s a chicken tostada salad, a chicken pita with pesto aioli, and grilled ham and cheese panini with a honey mustard dressing. I’m trying to incorporate lots of different flavors, a lot of color, and I like height. I have to have my food in 3-D. Anyone can put food on a plate but it takes somebody special to make it look like art.

Las Vegas Wine & Food Festival October 12, 9 p.m., Red Rock Resort. $100-$150, vegaswineandfood.com.

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Brock Radke is Las Vegas Weekly's food editor and author of the Strip-focused column The Incidental Tourist. He has written ...

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