The Las Vegas Room at the Downtown Grand is full of energy and excitement. Sixty people wear fedoras and vintage dresses while a projector plays images of old Vegas casinos and gangsters, all while a lovely pianist serenades guests with standards.
This is the biggest crowd yet for one of chef Scott Commings’ Culinary Road Trip events. Tonight’s theme is “Vintage Vegas,” with Commings going heavy on family Italian classics—eggplant parm, arancini, meatballs and Caesar salad, all prepared perfectly.
In past events, he’s focused on the cuisine of New Orleans, New York and his home state of Wisconsin. Regional culinary hopscotch is the perfect way to showcase Commings’ fare. “I love to cook everything. As a chef, you continue to learn new ways to do things all the time,” he says.
Commings studied at Purdue University and moved around the Midwest before landing a gig with Loyola University Chicago, where he was part of a team that built a sustainable campus with a five-acre organic farm.
That focus on high-quality ingredients is the chef’s sweet spot, in the garden and in the kitchen. He believes in using good products and preparing them in ways that let them shine, one of the reasons Commings won season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen. The next step was working for the Gordon Ramsay brand and then landing at the Downtown Grand. The Culinary Road Trips are a microcosm of what diners can find at Freedom Beat, the Grand’s American-style eatery and live music venue where Commings designed the menu.
As Downtown Las Vegas continues to diversify and grow, it’s nice to know the neighborhood has a boundary-pushing chef that—deliciously—represents its expanding philosophy.