Denise Truscello / WireImage / DeniseTruscello.net
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Celebrated chef, restaurateur, bestselling author and Emmy Award-winning TV personality Bobby Flay is celebrating 10 highly successful years of his Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace, and he thinks that the Las Vegas fine-dining scene is in for some big changes in the next five years.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished these past 10 years at Caesars Palace,” said Bobby. “From the incredible dishes and drinks we serve to the work we do in the community, Mesa Grill has become not only a stage for me to showcase my love for the Southwest but has become an integral part of Las Vegas. I look forward to all that’s on the horizon.”
I joined him for a special 10th anniversary menu tasting that winds down for guests tonight. For $85 per person, diners can enjoy a four-course menu of pumpkin soup with roasted ancho pumpkin seeds, allspice crema lobster and corn tamale, fire-roasted venison chop with cranberry-roasted serrano relish, sweet potato-smoked chile polenta and cotija, and chocolate coconut bread pudding with dulce de leche ice cream.
I can assure you that it is as delicious as it sounds, if not more so. I loved every bite!
“Chef Bobby Flay and Mesa Grill have been trailblazers in the now-bourgeoning Las Vegas culinary scene,” said Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner. “We couldn’t be more thrilled for Mesa Grill to continue to delight Caesars Palace guests with its explosive flavors, unique combinations and warm atmosphere.”
Bobby also has been a leading philanthropic restaurateur, with no better example than the outpouring of support Mesa Grill shows during Three Square food bank’s annual Restaurant Week, a citywide event used to raise funds to end hunger in Southern Nevada. Year after year, Mesa Grill has been awarded with the top Gold Plate honor for raising the most funds during the event.
Bobby opened his first restaurant, Mesa Grill in New York City, in 1991. It won him international acclaim, and we became firm friends not only because of his restaurants but also with his run of appearances — still going strong — on the Food Network that began in 1994. In fact, he even married my “Talking Food” co-host Kate Connelly, and they are the parents of daughter Sophie (they have since divorced).
With nine cookbooks on bookstore shelves, an ever-expanding family of restaurants and his own lines of signature spices, sauces, dishes and cookware, Bobby’s food empire continues to grow.
We met in his kitchen at Mesa Grill in Caesars to talk:
Congratulations on 10 incredible years. How has it all changed for you and the restaurant, and changes to the food scene here in Las Vegas?
To make a decade, it’s obviously stayed Mesa Grill, but it has evolved in its concept. People’s eating habits have changed a lot over the last 10 years. I think that the food scene in Las Vegas has changed tremendously in the last 10 years. People expect and demand more and better. Especially in this town, they want things that are more exciting; things they haven’t had other places.
It’s not like you can just pick up your restaurant in New York and land it here. You can actually create a sort of Las Vegas version of the concept, and that’s what I do here in Mesa Grill. We really push the envelope, the ingredients are more luxurious, the combinations are more adventurous because people want to try anything.
Do people want more casual dining today than fine dining of yesteryear?
Yes, I think people want good food and good service, but they want it in a casual environment. They want high energy. Ultimately the dining experience is only a piece of what they’re here for. They want to gamble, they want to go to a show.
There are so many great things to do here in Las Vegas, and I think that the last thing people want to do here is have a 3 1/2 hour meal. They want to come in, have a 90-minute to 2-hour meal, have high energy, but the food and the service has to be really great.
You and I both know that restaurants don’t last 10 years. So what’s the secret here — other than you and your charm?
Well, yeah, that only counts for about 2 percent of it! It’s hard work and paying attention to it. I come to this restaurant all the time. It’s important to me. The only way my employees are going to know it’s important is if I show up and in turn the customers get that great experience.
To me that’s the only way you can make it right. You can hype it all you want, you can talk about how much you want it to be good, but unless you actually put in the time, it can’t be.
Has Las Vegas become more demanding in 10 years?
Oh, yeah, for sure. The competition is very high. We have great chefs from not just all around the country but all around the world. We have great chefs right here in Caesars: Guy Savoy, Gordon Ramsay.
The competition is incredibly high. We’re not the new kid on the block anymore. We’re not getting the sort of new restaurant buzz, but we win on our reputation and consistency of being the best at what we do.
Is every night opening night in a sense like a Broadway show?
Yeah, you can never take one single dish for granted. You’ve got to look at every single dish as an individual — constantly training people in the kitchen to make sure they really care about every dish.
Is food going to change in the next 10 years in Las Vegas?
I think it is going to change. I think the biggest change we’re going to find in Las Vegas is people are going to start eating less meat than they used to, which honestly in Las Vegas if you open a steakhouse, you’re busy because people want big plates of meat.
I think that what we’re seeing in New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago even is that people are eating a lot less meat and a lot more vegetable. A lot of it has to do with health and creativity with vegetables. Veggies are going to have far more of a role on the plate than it does now or has in the past.
I think that vegetables are actually going to share the spotlight with meat more than they ever have before. Now I think Las Vegas is going to be the last town to make that switch, but it’s going to happen.
All meat or just red meat?
All meat in general. I just opened up a new restaurant called Gato in New York a few months ago. Very busy, very hard to get a reservation right now, and my No. 1 entree is a vegetarian dish. It’s been the No. 1 entree every night since we’ve opened. It’s a kale and wild mushroom paella — completely vegetarian. No meat, no fish. It’s rice, wild mushrooms and kale.
So when are you going to bring that to Las Vegas?
As soon as Caesars Palace says they’re ready for a new restaurant.
You wouldn’t sneak the dish in here?
No, no, no, we need a new restaurant.
A restaurant because of a dish?
Exactly. Gato is going to usher in the wild mushroom paella craze!
* * *
I told Bobby that I could take the wild mushrooms, but for me kale has been overdone and has now run its course. He totally disagreed but did admit, “We’ll have to wait and see.”
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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Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.