Saturday, April 28, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The superstar chefs providing dinner at tonight’s Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala at the MGM Grand Garden Arena — the annual celebration that raises money for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health's programs and services — are also two of the most influential and instrumental restaurateurs in the history of Las Vegas: Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Vongerichten helped launch the stellar restaurant program at Bellagio nearly 25 years ago, recruited by Steve Wynn to open the acclaimed Prime steakhouse. Among his dozens of restaurants around the world, the Alsatian-born chef also operates Jean Georges Steakhouse at Aria.
In 2015, the Keep Memory Alive organization brought a group of chefs together including Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer and Wylie DuFresne for a special dinner in support of Kerry Simon, who was battling multiple system atrophy and passed away shortly after the event. One of the city’s most popular and pioneering chefs and restaurateurs, Simon’s first job in Las Vegas was in Vongerichten’s kitchen at Prime.
“The Power of Love Gala is important to me because it reminds me of my dear friend, his life and impact on Las Vegas,” Vongerichten said. “I am excited to be a part of this legendary culinary event again this year, to support the foundation and to help raise money for these programs and services.”
Before he dishes up tonight’s menu, Vongerichten will walk the Power of Love red carpet with other celebs including Pitbull, Steve Aoki, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Carrot Top and Matt Goss. Michael Bublé is this year’s lead entertainment attraction. Wolfgang Puck will not be present at the event tonight but he worked with the event’s culinary team to curate all the food and beverage offerings.
“For me, the Power of Love Gala and supporting Keep Memory Alive is very personal and close to my heart,” Puck said. “I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s in 2004 so the organization and aiding their mission is of particular importance to me. Larry Ruvo has also been a great friend for many years and in fact we hosted the original Keep Memory Alive dinner at Spago back in 1996 so it’s a pleasure to still be involved today.”
Puck opened Spago at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in 1992 and will re-open it at Bellagio in the coming weeks. The global food icon also oversees Cucina at the Shops at Crystals, Cut at Palazzo, Lupo at Mandalay Bay and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill locations at MGM Grand and Downtown Summerlin.
Puck and Vongerichten have played essential roles in cultivating the Strip restaurant landscape and said they are just as excited about their business here today as when they first started in Las Vegas.
“I’m more excited today,” said Puck. “There are more starred restaurants and famous chefs on one street than anywhere else in the world. The competition is so much higher today but it forces us to all be better. We have to continue to innovate to stay relevant and it is a good thing for the industry as a whole.”
“Business in Las Vegas keeps getting better and better,” said Vongerichten. “So many great chefs are opening, which makes the city a dining destination.”