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October 16, 2017

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Strip Scribbles: Las Vegas chefs snubbed again by James Beard; Hakkasan sets opening dates


Sam Morris

Julian Serrano smiles after sabering a champagne bottle for the cameras in front of the Bellagio to kick off Vegas Uncork’d Thursday, May 5, 2011.

2012 James Beard Awards Lunch and Dinner

The 2012 James Beard Awards announcement luncheon at the Palazzo on Monday, March 19, 2012. Launch slideshow »

NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway

NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Jackie Evancho Rehearses for One Drop at Bellagio

Twelve-year-old Jackie Evancho rehearses for Launch slideshow »

Jaymes Vaughan, James Davis of Chippendales at Palms

Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis of Chippendales at The Rio host Launch slideshow »

Celine Dion Celebrates 10th Anniversary of The Colosseum

H.C. Rowe, of AEG and executive director of The Colosseum; John Nelson, AEG vice president; John Meglen, AEG president and co-CEO; and Dave Platel, CDA Productions Management associate celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Saturday, March 16, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Once again, Las Vegas gets the short end of the stick from the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards announced Monday. The New York-headquartered group has snubbed our fine chefs and restaurants yet again by only having two finalists competing at the September gala: Picasso at Bellagio is in the final nominees for Outstanding Wine Service, and Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant Design.

That’s it! Nothing else! No Las Vegas chefs get a tip of the toque! No other restaurants are recognized! Valentino restaurateur Piero Selvaggio was named a finalist for his Valentino restaurant in L.A., but not for The Venetian outpost, which closes soon.

Las Vegas chefs who made it into the nominee list but were dropped from the finals include Julian Serrano at Picasso, Nicole Grimes from Rao’s at Caesars Palace and Mitsuo Endo at Raku. It’s a deliberate snub to our famed dining destination!

HAKKASAN OPENINGS: The much-anticipated, five-level nightlife venue Hakkasan at MGM Grand has set its long-awaited opening date -- the nightclub opens April 18, and the restaurant debuts May 3. Reservations for both start April 10. There’s a lineup of world-famous DJs all set to spin the wheels of steel in the nightclub, and be sure to check out the 10,000-square-foot Ling Ling Club on the third level.

The main-nightclub level is on the fourth floor with an adjoining pavilion set in an open-air Asian garden. The first- and second-floor restaurant areas will serve modern Cantonese cuisine, which means such classics as silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey. Now you know my favorite.

MORE TV SPOTLIGHT: Travel expert and Travel Channel fun-seeker Bert Kreischer handed out one of his all-expenses-paid fantasy surprise vacations on “Trip Flip” to adventurous Denver residents Kim and Kyle. He brought them to Mandalay Bay to swim with the sharks wearing just their SCUBA suits. Then they took a high-speed ride at Richard Petty Driving Experience at our Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where they were surprised by racing heroes Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex, who let them ride shotgun down the Strip for NASCAR’s Victory Lap Parade.

As if that wasn’t a big enough thrill, the visiting couple also got to toast champagne at Bellagio Fountains, normally a $250,000 treat for high rollers. The “Trip Flip” episode from Las Vegas airs on The Travel Channel on Sunday.

I’m hearing first rumblings of two new TV series to be filmed here. The first is a Bravo project featuring “The Best,” a look at what Las Vegas has that outshines anything anywhere else in the world. The second is, for now, simply titled “Project Las Vegas” and is another reality TV series featuring outrageous women who really let their hair down -- and more -- when visiting here. “The cameras show the wild behavior they’d never exhibit back home,” I was told.

CELEBRITY TURNOUTS: On Monday, we reported that Britney Spears and Pamela Anderson will be in the spotlight at Guy Laliberte’s “One Night for One Drop” gala Friday at Bellagio. Now we’re learning of more celebrity support for the Cirque du Soleil founder -- Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Mary Whipple, Erin Cafaro, Criss Angel, Jackie Evancho, Danny Elfman, Bridget Fonda, Tom Higgenson, Hana Mae Lee, Jason Moore, David Garibaldi, The Canadian Tenors, Oluchi Orlandi, Peter Lik, Julian Serrano and Carla Pellegrino. We’ll add more names as we hear them.

Combative “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Omarosa will play with our favorite Chippendales hunks and “The Amazing Race” Season 21 stars Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis at the eighth annual Opportunity Village Celebrity Poker Tournament on April 6 at Caesars. Actresses Tia and Tamera Mowry also will attend, along with yours truly as MC. You can support our beloved charity by playing against Texas Hold’Em stars. The $300 per person ticket includes one seat at the tournament and a VIP brunch at Pure.

COMEDY CELEBRATION: Congratulations to comedian Brad Garrett who now stars on ABC’s new “How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life).” He will headline all next week -- starting Monday -- at his Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand to celebrate its first anniversary.


Country and pop superstar Shania Twain resumes her residency shows at The Colosseum in Caesars.

“Shrek the Musical” starts a five-night run at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

The Wanted performs at 1 OAK in The Mirage.

Topless adult club Sapphire opens its new pool in tandem with the first day of exhibits at the 2013 Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show and the $100,000 summer DJ residency contest semifinals.


We wrap our three-part salute to the 10th anniversary of The Colosseum with hotel President Gary Selesner and two of the original employees who were there on opening night with Celine Dion in March 2003. We also have a preview of this year’s Mint 400 races Downtown.

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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