Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009 | 9:30 p.m.
Rare is the Las Vegas event where nearly everyone in attendance wonders, “Why am I here?” Tonight such an event burst open like an overheated tin of Jiffy Pop at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. All evening it was Planet Bizarro as entertainers, publicists, media types, I imagine even the hired staff had to be thinking, “Is there not somewhere else I should be tonight?”
The reason for all the hooey was the Sammy’s Celebrity Cook-Off, which was a fundraising celebrity pizza-making contest to benefit local charities and celebrate the opening of the new Sammy’s restaurant out on 215 and Flamingo. It was the type of function that typically attracts about 16 curious onlookers, but somehow an impressive Vegas crowd descended on this event as if it were the closing night of "Believe." I guess it was an off-night for, maybe, every other function and form of entertainment in the 702 area code.
Everywhere you looked, you knew that person. Sashaying through the throng was late-arriving Channel 3 entertainment reporter Alicia Jacobs, bathed in white light with a camera crew in tow. Once more, A.J. was both covering and being covered. She should be twins. Across the restaurant, pure-as-driven-snow Channel 8 anchor Dave McCann was bantering with top-heavy bombshell Marley Taylor of Zowie Bowie. At one point my BFF, Robin Leach, vigorously lobbied a judging panel that included uber-prolific freelancer Steve Friess, irascible food critics John Curtas and Max Jacobson, AND the Johnny Kats, “Remember! I am the only contestant to have made his own crust!” Robin implored. “And, each judge is to receive champagne! But that champagne is only to be consumed with my pizza, not the others!”
Yeah, yeah. Whatever. I stuck to my trusty diet cola as the finest culinary efforts of Zowie Bowie, Robin, towering comic George Wallace, the KLAS crew of McCann, Dayna Roselli and Denise Valdez: the KLUC 98.5-FM Morning Zoo team of Chet, Spence and Lauren; and Erich Bergen and Jeff Leibow of “Jersey Boys.” Each individual or team created a pizza from a list of ingredients supplied by Sammy’s. According to contest rules, the winning combination will be sold for charity at the restaurant for a limited time (I think everything on Earth is sold for a limited time, right?). The judging criteria was sensible when it wasn’t weird. “Smell” and “Taste” were joined by “After Tastes/Memory.” Somehow, in the coming days, my memory of one of the pizzas might change from “melancholy” to “giddy,” and I’ll need to change my score.
The judging was wracked with controversy, mostly because I was accused of favoring Leach simply because my scorecard gave him 64 points out of a possible 60. The salmon, cream cheese and caviar creation did land him in second place, ahead of Jacobs but two points behind Zowie Bowie’s winning effort, which featured Gouda, pineapples, pears, arugula, orange blossom honey and truffle oil. Marley hugged all the judges, including me, even though on my scorecard the Zowie Bowie pizza lost to Robin’s by … 64 points.
Robin said, “It proves once again that when a gorgeous lady chef in a low-cut blouse, displaying perfect pulchritude, heats up the kitchen she will annihilate the competition!” But the real winner is Opportunity Village, Zowie Bowie’s favorite charity, for whom they really (cough) delivered.