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October 22, 2017

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Counter Intelligence: Chefs’ benefit Jan. 19 for Max Jacobson; ‘Top Chef’ news; Thomas Keller’s 20th; UNLVino’s 40th


Erik Kabik/

John Curtas, Rick Moonen, Max Jacobson and Al Mancini attend the 2012 “Eating Las Vegas” celebration at Rao’s on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, in Caesars Palace.

'Eating Las Vegas' 2012 at Rao's

Authors Max Jacobson, John Curtas and Al Mancini at the 2012 Launch slideshow »

'Eating Las Vegas' 2012 at Guy Savoy

Launch slideshow »

Eating Las Vegas at L'Atelier

pictured at Eating Las Vegas Book Release event at Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV on November 17, 2010.  RD/ Erik Kabik/ Retna Digital Launch slideshow »

Hot off the grill!

In a whirlwind 48 hours over the busiest holiday season of the year, “Top Chef Masters” cheftestant Rick Moonen has recruited a stunning list of culinary kings and queens as host of the first of a series of fundraiser dinners for food journalist Max Jacobson, who remains critically injured after a horrific auto accident.

The $1,000 per-person magnificent menu with two selections each for the seven courses and wine pairing will team 14 of America’s most acclaimed chefs. The grand gourmet Jan. 19 “Chefs to the Max” dinner at Rick’s Rx Boiler Room in Mandalay Bay should raise more than $100,000 to help defray the ever-growing medical bills.

Chefs who instantly responded to the need to support the restaurant critic include Akira Back (Yellowtail, Kumi); Megan Bringas (Aureole); Bruce Bromberg (Blue Ribbon, Brooklyn Bowl); Kim Canteenwalla (Honey Salt, Buddy V’s); Tom Colicchio (Craftsteak, Heritage Steak); Hubert Keller (Fleur, Burger Bar); Barry Dakake (N9NE Steakhouse); Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill); and Thomas Keller (Bouchon).

Plus, Grant McPherson and Brian Massie (The Light Group); Bradley Ogden; Luciano Pellegrini; Joey Romano; Megan Romano; David Walzog and more who are trying to arrange their travel schedules. Jose Andres, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and current “Top Chef” New Orleans front-runner Shirley Chung also are hoping to attend.

Larry Ruvo, head honcho of Southern Wine and Spirits, is sponsoring the wines, beverages and mixology for the five hours of feasting and fundraising. I’ll fly in just in time to handle a live auction to close out the event. Bruce Bromberg is flying in from the London opening of Brooklyn Bowl and promises to stay awake to play guitar in an impromptu chefs’ jam session.

“We consider Max to be a brother, and when something happens to our family, we rally together for one another. So far, the outpouring has been amazing,” said Rick. “This dinner series is meant for everyone to roll up their sleeves and help Max any way we can. It was the busiest time of the year for chefs and restaurateurs, and everybody dropped everything to get involved. They are the most generous of people. "

Two days before Christmas, a texting driver who ran a red light struck Max while he had right of way in a crosswalk at Windmill Parkway and Pecos Road. Max sustained severe brain trauma from the accident and remains in critical condition at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. Max covered food news, restaurants and chefs for 15 years for the Los Angeles Times before moving to Las Vegas in 1999 for our sister publications. He authored all three annual directories “Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants” with fellow Las Vegas critics Al Mancini and John Curtas.

We’ll have the final list of the chefs’ courses next week, but meantime tickets for the dinner are available by calling Rx Boiler Room at (702) 632-9900 and emailing [email protected] (Subject: Chefs to the Max). A credit card will be needed to guarantee seats. Please support this extraordinary charitable outpouring.

SHIRLEY IN FINAL SIX: For the second time in less than a month on “Top Chef” NOLA, our local cheftestant Shirley Chung won immunity and now is safely in the final six cheftestants. She won the Quickfire challenge with her etouffee using crawfish and traditional rice, a favorite of her husband, and it proved to be a winner with the judges.

In the Elimination Challenge, she had to combine two seafoods to make one dish, but first they had to buy the fish at the docks and then cut and clean them. The chefs served 200 guests at the Louisiana Seafood Festival, and for the first time in the series, Shirley focused on a cold dish, a ceviche, that landed her in the Top Four.

We’ll preview Shirley’s next challenge Wednesday and see if she winds up in the Final Four, with the results Thursday.

KELLER MILESTONES: Two spectacular dining experiences organized by American Express for its Platinum Card members will celebrate superstar chef Thomas Keller, who has his Bouchon at the Venetian. He will celebrate a $1,495-per-person nine-course menu for the 20th anniversary of his French Laundry in Napa, Calif., on July 3 with classic dishes and vintages.

First, though, comes the 10th anniversary dinner of the nearby Per Se restaurant Feb. 15 with another nine courses and 10 years of his signature dishes with wine. Thomas has agreed to team up with “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio for the third duo with poultry courses at the Max Jacobson fundraiser dinner reported above.

UNLVINO 40th ANNIVERSARY: To mark its 40th anniversary, UNLVino will expand this year to four days of events starting April 9. Four honorees will be recognized with the Dom Perignon Award of Excellence: celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, UNLVino artist Romero Britto, Harrah’s Hotel College founding Dean Jerry Vallen and Southern Wines chief Larry Ruvo. Wolf will host the Sip and Savor party at his Spago in the Forum Shops at Caesars on April 9; the student scholarship fundraiser BAR-B-Q will be at Garden of the Gods at Caesars on April 10; the Bubble-Licious champagne party is set for the Doges Palace forecourt at the Venetian on April 11; and the Founders Grand Tasting will be at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on April 12. Watch for the official announcement and ticket sales date in the next 10 days.

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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