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November 20, 2017

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Counter Intelligence photos: Culinary Clash, $100,000 to Sandy aid, Valentino truffles


Audrey Dempsey/Infinity Photography

Round 2 of Culinary Clash featuring Mario Batali, Larry Ruvo, Denise Valdez, Sebastien Silvestri and Susan Stapleton with emcee Robin Leach at the Venetian on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012.

2012 Culinary Clash at the Venetian: Round 1

Round 1 of Culinary Clash featuring Dana White, Sebastien Silvestri and Emeril Lagasse, with emcee Robin Leach, at the Venetian on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012. Launch slideshow »

2012 Culinary Clash at the Venetian: Round 2

Round 2 of Culinary Clash featuring Mario Batali, Larry Ruvo, Denise Valdez, Sebastien Silvestri and Susan Stapleton with emcee Robin Leach at the Venetian on Friday, Dec. 7, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Culinary Clash Round 2

Culinary Clash Round 2

Hurricane Sandy Benefit at New York-New York

Chef Francois Payard, left, and his staff take part in he Launch slideshow »

Hot off the grill! Chef Mario Batali was chief judge at Round 2 of the Venetian’s Culinary Clash that I MC’d last week. Las Vegas personalities Denise Valdez, Susan Stapleton, Sebastien Silvestri and Larry Ruvo also served as judges.

Chefs were given 45 minutes with a picnic basket of unknown foods and had to create a winning entree in a food truck. Video crews sent the action onto the huge clock tower marquee as Strip tourists stopped to watch. Mario even entertained juggling lemons and eggs!

The four meals -- with escargot, frogs legs, vegetables and curveball sauces and spices -- were won by two of Mario’s chefs, Nicole Brisson of Carnevino and Matt Harubin of B&B (Mario abstained from voting for them). The two other winners were Herb Wilson of Sushi Samba and Steve Aguglia of Aquaknox.

Those four go head-to-head tonight in Round 3 with First Food & Bar chef Sammy DeMarco judging with yours truly back as MC. Then next Friday, chef Daniel Boulud and “Sex and the City” hunk Gilles Marini join me for the finals.

The winner receives the Golden Spoon Award and a trip for two to Italy. Chefs from 30 Venetian and Palazzo restaurants have been competing since Round 1 on Nov. 29 with head judge Emeril Lagasse.

CHEFS’ $100,000 GIFT: “Start Spreadin’ the News,” the culinary event on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York last Sunday, raised $100,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Nearly 700 guests, volunteers and supporters, including two “Mayor Goodmans,” Southern Wine and Spirits head honcho Larry Ruvo and celebrity chefs attended the 22 restaurant samplings all with ties to Las Vegas and NYC.

“It was an amazing day where the Las Vegas community came out in support of those impacted and still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. The goal was $50,000, but when donations hit that mark, Larry said that Carolyn called Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York to share the news, he would match it to make the total $100,000. She readily agreed, and the moment she hung up her cell phone, he wrote the check!

It all began with a bagpipe procession of Las Vegas and Henderson firefighters and American Red Cross service workers, many who had been deployed to relief efforts in New York and New Jersey. For $100, guests tasted cuisine from 22 restaurants, including chefs Francois Payard of Payard Patisserie & Bistro in Caesars Palace and Scott Conant of Scarpetta and D.O.C.G. Enoteca at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (their NYC restaurants and staff were impacted by the storm’s damage.)

“It is an amazing situation to see the outpouring of love and concern and compassion from everyone,” Scott said. Francois added: “It is great Las Vegas is doing something to help, a great event with the donations going to the right people.” Guests took home a commemorative chip adorned with patriotic artwork by Romero Britto that read, “When the chips were down, Las Vegas stepped up to help those who were dealt a bad hand by Hurricane Sandy.”

TERRIFIC TRUFFLES: It’s the height of white truffle season, and Valentino chef Luciano Pellegrini has created a one-night-only, sublime, seven-course menu of the Italian delicacy at his Venetian restaurant tonight. The $250-per-person menu starts with waffle cones and Wagyu tartare truffled veal robiola fondue tarts.

It’s followed by burrata cheese and roasted gold beets, quail sausage over braised cabbage flan, raviolo with roasted veal sweetbreads and scrambled eggs, ostrich tagliata with porcini mushroom and cheese polenta, 24-month-old parmesan chunks with truffle honey and a dessert sampling. The truffles are on and in everything!

PAYARD’S 5TH ANNIVERSARY: Pastry prince Francois Payard celebrated the fifth anniversary of his 40-seat Patisserie & Bistro in Caesars in tandem with National Pastry Day. He gave pastry demonstrations with step-by-step prep of the delicious creations from his two bestselling cookbooks. Francois took four pastries from his menu categories in the first year to add them to his fifth-anniversary menu, plus, a cocktail of champagne, ice cream and roasted pear in maple syrup. Fabulous!

In January, he’s adding four casual black truffle dishes including salmon and porcini mushrooms as informal dining and gastropubs take precedence here. “Change is good so long as you believe in what you are doing. You have to keep it fresh or you die. But I promise: No hamburgers! We are still here after five years, and business with 280 people a day is going very well.”

BACK IN TOWN: Chef Joseph Elevado returns to town now that Steve Wynn has selected him to run the hip Asian offerings at wife Andrea Wynn’s new dining concept Andrea’s opening at the Encore on Dec. 28. Joe, who returned from L.A., served a nine-year stint here with Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel and then Social House in Treasure Island and Crystals at CityCenter.


I told you earlier in the week that food critics John Curtas and Al Mancini’s new Travel Channel series will be titled “All Forked Up.” Now I can advise that it will premiere in the spring and was originally to be titled “Go Fork Yourself” -- that proved a little too close to what John always says to Al!

MGM chefs Tom Colicchio and Michael Mina and Cosmopolitan’s Jose Andres have been named advisers to Greenbriar chefs Richard Rosendale and Corey Siegel, who will represent America in Bocuse D’Or in France next month. The USA has never won a medal

Incidentally while in San Francisco with Michael on a restaurant crawl, he told me that his Seablue at MGM Grand will be transformed into a 1842 gastropub early next year.

The Light Group’s new-look Red Square at Mandalay Bay has opened for test-run dinners.

And congratulations to Comme Ca at the Cosmopolitan’s Brian Howard on his wedding this week in Hawaii!

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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