For the first time ever, the Maitres Cuisiniers de France—French Master Chefs—are having their annual global get-together in the U.S., and what better place than Las Vegas?
Venetian and Palazzo executive chef Olivier Dubreuil, one of three Las Vegas-based members of the prestigious organization, engineered the March 5-9 conference, which will be longer this year and include some rare public events. “Twenty years ago, I don’t think it would have worked, but now we have great food and beverage programs across the board and star chefs that are here,” Dubreuil says. “I’m very excited.”
More than 160 master chefs will be touring the city and discussing their craft, but the main public event is the Master Tour De France dinner on March 8, when 12 chefs and 12 winemakers will showcase specialties from the 12 regions of France. Tickets are $50 and are available by calling 414-9000.
The Weekly chatted with Dubreuil as he finalized planning for this unique event.
How did the 59th General Assembly of French Master Chefs end up in Las Vegas? We have two meetings a year, one in France and one in another country. By French law, we need to have a work congress outside France every five years. Last time we went to Spain, and that’s when I mentioned coming to the States and Las Vegas. The meetings are held to discuss what we want to do in the future, to promote couture cuisine, our tradition, training, and other things.
Did it take some convincing to bring the conference to Vegas? No, no; everybody was excited about it. It’s not only a good thing for us to have it here but also good for our group because of what they’re going to learn and see in Las Vegas. More and more people travel here to try restaurants. Gaming is one thing, and retail, but you have to look at the dining here and the demand for it. People are aware we have good stuff across the board, not only at Venetian but up and down the Strip.
There are a few public events offered this year, but what about the private events? What’s going on at those meetings? This is really the only time we all get together to talk about what we do, pick each other’s brains, find ideas and try to find different networks to promote what we do. I think there are 350 of us worldwide, and we have at least 160 coming to Las Vegas. It’s going to be longer because 60 percent are coming from Europe, so it needed to be a longer trip.
How long have you been part of the French Master Chefs? Since 2008.
How does one become a member? Usually you are approached by the group and then you begin the process of going through the chef’s resume, what other chefs you’ve worked for, how you’ve done in the past and what you’re planning for the future. Most of these chefs own hotels or restaurants, more than one. Seventy percent are in France, but we have some big names from [the U.S.] like Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert. You’re not going to be 25 and be approached by this group. Most members have at least 20 years experience.
It seems like having just a few members of this group visiting Las Vegas and staying and eating at the Venetian would be a lot of pressure. You’re going to have 160. Yeah, especially when I know I’m going to get the calls about their room service. My coffee! My croissant! Actually, I don’t see it as pressure because the more feedback I get, good or bad, the better off I am. I’m ready for it. And besides, I have 500 cooks here already. I can handle another group. I’m used to it.
I’m really glad these chefs are coming here because it’s hard to explain Vegas. When I tell them what I do here, they think I’m crazy or arrogant. When I tell them how big we are, the volume we do, the different tiers of service, or how many people work for us, it sounds crazy. These guys in France have one-star restaurants with three guys in the kitchen and four guys in front and everybody’s working seven days a week, 16 hours a day. When they come here, it’s like a big toy store. I don’t think there’s any place like it. Vegas is special.