John Robert Kley
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 | 2:27 p.m.
Television’s beloved chef Giada De Laurentiis is now just days away from the first taste test of her new Strip restaurant menu. Giada, at the new boutique hotel Cromwell, opens May 21. She has some sexy and sensual surprises under her toque for when media and VIPs sample the culinary queen’s offerings next week.
“I want to create something more sensual. I want something more feminine. Each one has to say Giada. For every dish we serve, people need to look at it and say, ‘That’s a Giada dish. You can only get it at her Las Vegas restaurant,’” she said.
Giada gave a preview to Vegas Player, the Caesars Entertainment guest magazine, and my pal publisher Rod Museum told me: “I don’t think we have ever interviewed a chef who was more excited to be opening a restaurant in Las Vegas.
“In our one-hour interview session, Giada told us ‘she is very hands on with not only creating a menu with the Giada touch, but also with the overall design of the restaurant at the Cromwell.’ She says ‘that was very important to her.’
“She also told us that Las Vegas was a logical choice for Giada because it’s close to her home in Los Angeles, and her family has so much history in this city.”
For the past few weeks, Giada has zipped in and out of Las Vegas working with her kitchen crew on the menu and her dishes and with Caesars Entertainment execs on furniture and fixtures. “I’m not saying I’m reinventing the Italian wheel. There are some really great restaurants in Las Vegas, but they don’t have my touch.
“My touch is different. It’s delicate and feminine. It’s the subtle things that make it unique and something that nobody else is doing. I’m not one of those chefs who will just walk into the restaurant the week before it opens. When you start from ground zero, your hands are in everything. I believe that I need to be a part of every move. I’m going to be there every step of the way.”
Explaining why she chose Las Vegas for her first-ever restaurant, Giada told Vegas Player writer Ryan Slattery: “The location was No. 1. I was getting to build a restaurant from scratch on one of the most famous intersections in the world. I would have been a dummy to pass it up.
“Las Vegas is so much a part of my family. With my family in the movie business, it’s always been beautiful adventures — lights, camera, action. And there is no place on earth that has more lights, camera, action than Las Vegas.”
Her journey in the kitchen is thanks to her grandfather, director Dino De Laurentiis, who escaping the pressures of moviemaking opened his DDL Foodshow gourmet shops as a successful sideline business. Giada was 12 when she realized that she was most comfortable in his pasta factory on the outskirts of Rome or with the pizza makers in Naples.
“I just fell in love with the food, the aromas. It made people happy, and I said that I want to do that. I tried show business for a short time because everybody in my family has to try it. I didn’t want to be an actress. I just never found my place. The place I felt best was in the kitchen,” she explained.
“I guess, though, that I came full circle. The cameras from the Food Network found me. This was different from acting. I can be myself, and I’m not sure that I was good at playing somebody else.”
She revealed that her new restaurant will be like her own L.A. home where she lives with husband Todd Thompson and their 6-year-old daughter Jade: “It will feel like home — something inviting and warm. I wanted it to be as if you’re coming over to a dinner party at my house. I want it to be like a big hug walking in.”
The $6 million venue features Italian tile flooring on the alfresco dining area with marble tabletops. Additionally, her menu will offer vegan and gluten-free dishes.
The TV chef beauty premieres her new Season 10 of “Food Network Star” with Bobby Flay and Alton Brown on June 1.
She credits Bobby for a lot of help with her Las Vegas restaurant debut from his own experiences here with two Strip venues. Her newest cookbook “Feel Good Food” of healthy meals containing more than 120 recipes is already a bestseller.
She confided that her next project is to tackle a possible script-related food comedy for television or a movie: “Maybe more food programming that isn’t demo-style cooking shows like mine. I would like to produce and build businesses where I don’t have to be in front of the camera 24/7.”
After graduating culinary school in Paris, Giada worked under Wolfgang Puck at his restaurant Spago in Los Angeles. “I watched how he treated his staff, how he tasted his food, how he was a part of every single thing that he did. You need to have a say in everything you put your name on,” she said.
Our Chefs Week series continues Wednesday with my interview with Wolf and his new healthy approach to cooking and opening a new Spago in Summerlin.
HOT OFF THE GRILL!
In other food news for Chefs Week, celebrity chef Jose Andres has revealed his two new restaurants for the SLS Hotel (transformed from the old Sahara site) opening over Labor Day Weekend.
He will have Ku Noodles for comfort Chinese cuisine from Hong Kong and Bazaar Meat with a small bites meats approach from his native Spain, plus quail, pheasant and one seafood bar with oysters, sea urchin and other delicacies and a second bar for tartars and carpaccio. When opened, it will bring the total of his Las Vegas venues to five.
Jose says the restaurants will be integrated into the casino floor so that gaming players can order steak from the servers while at the Bar Centro slots or Reuben sandwiches for their roulette or broth for their baccarat.
Four new side-by-side restaurants with outdoor entrances and patios are to be part of the $35 million upgrading and new cosmetic makeover of Red Rock Resort set to open in October. Terra Rossa will be renamed with a new Italian concept, and Hachi will become a noodle bar.
As I reported on Monday, the Chicago chef invasion is well underway. Chef Rick Sandoval will open his modern twist on traditional Mexican cuisine with Mercadito. The Strip’s Light Group will open a small-plates craft beer venue on the new Restaurant Row at Red Rock. Included in the new look will be an upgrade of the T-Bones Chophouse now that Cherry nightclub has been converted into event space near one of the hotel’s private pools.
Be sure to check back to Vegas DeLuxe on Wednesday for our interview with Wolf and on Thursday our sit-down with Guy Fieri as he opens his first Las Vegas restaurant — at the Quad.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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