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April 23, 2017

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Ben Vaughn: Five chefs who are transforming the way we eat in Las Vegas

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Adam Shane

Sheridan Su.

Updated Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 | 6:50 a.m.

Salute Trattoria Italiana

An exterior view of Salute Trattoria Italiana by Luciano Sautto in the Red Rock Resort Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Being at the top of your profession is extraordinary — and even sweeter when your peers recognize you. I think about a column like this and wonder, “How do I do it justice?”

These days, I’ve traded my knife for a keyboard, but coming from my perspective as a chef, when I view food, ingredients, techniques and methods of preparation, I always revert back to what I remember so fondly over my own cutting board.

I keep in mind that I’m looking for something so amazing on the plate that it could possibly change the way I view my meal, or how diners might enjoy their meals indefinitely.

These same steps are taken when choosing a Best New Chef roster and verbalizing how I credit these five talented chefs. These cooks are definitely on a heat-seeking chart. I’ve penned lists and columns about talented chefs in Las Vegas more than 50 times.

In more than a year since beginning this column, I have attempted to appreciate each edible experience that is noteworthy and unique. I also am trained to understand that the changing of the guard for the “best” seemingly is a constant.

Today, here are my five chefs who I believe are embarking on something extraordinary, changing the landscape of food in their region with one skillful plate at a time.

SHERIDAN SU, Flock & Fowl, 380 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89102

I’ve noticed Sheridan’s food for some time since a chef friend introduced me to his mind-blowing bao at Fat Choy in Eureka Casino last year. I’ll mention that the bao was life changing despite the environment.

The effort and quality of ingredient led me to this gem, his newest eatery Flock & Fowl. First, I love the order by number system. It’s so relaxed and candidly makes it memorable, as now I know I love the #2 Hainan fried chicken and rice.

It’s prepared with fried tenders, house-made ginger scallion sauce, house-cured chili sauce and soy sauce and served with marinated cucumbers and preserved greens.

And my second favorite, nearly equally my favorite, is #4 Night market fried chicken bao with five-spice buttermilk fried chicken, kale pea sprouts and sesame slaw on a Sheridan signature steam bun.

LUCIANO SAUTTO, Salute Trattoria Italiana, Red Rock Resort, 11011 W. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89135

I’ve never found fault in a well-prepared, authentic Italian meal. It’s next to godliness. This is it. The chef takes minimal ingredients and prepares them with skill and regional respect for each course. Take as a perfect example the chicken consomme with raviolini (the literal translation of which is so small you cannot count) filled with chicken and prosciutto.

Step one, it takes perfection to obtain clear, fortified broth soup, and step two comes the painstaking process to hand prepare filled, savory, tiny ravioli that consume each bite of the clear liquid gold.

I’ll mention the salad quickly only because it’s so simple and perfectly executed: Insalata mista, a variety of greens, shaved onions, fennel and marinated tomatoes that round out the flavor profile on each taste bud.

Lastly, my favorite pasta of all is the pappardelle that combines with chef’s Bolognese. If you’re unfamiliar with pappardelle, please try this. It’s a perfect complement to so many sauces as it retains the sauce from end to end on the wide egg noodle base. I felt slight euphoria eating my way through this enriched veal dish.

JARET BLINN, Craft Kitchen, 10940 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 107, Henderson, NV 89052

When I was fact-checking on the website, the phrase came across the screen that couldn’t have summed up my experience more: “A space full of energy with food full of life.” It really leaves nothing left to say. However, I’m not stopping there.

Let’s chat about the forager sandwich. It’s a warm, grilled, in-house, heavy olive oil-flavored focaccia bread with grilled vegetables, asiago cheese and a swipe of roasted pepper aioli. It’s balanced in acid, sweet and savory and comes together wonderfully.

Then there is the pulled turkey benny. Benny, of course, indicating that I’ve ordered a version of an eggs Benedict on culinary steroids. It’s served equally as balanced with charred tomatoes, perfectly poached eggs and a hint of citrus in velvet-like hollandaise sauce. It all works — it’s food full of life.

ANTONIO NUNEZ and JAVIER CHAVEZ, Kitchen Table, 1716 Horizon Ridge, Suite 100, Henderson, NV 89012

Kitchen Table is currently serving breakfast and lunch only, with special-occasion dinner pop-ups. It could be breakfast, lunch or dinner, I don’t care. The attention to detail is in control with both of these fine chefs intertwining their skill-set to develop a cohesive menu that is fit for a king.

Try the breakfast taquitos with chorizo, potato, a nice hint of pickled slaw and a slather of avocado crema. Or sample the duck and cheese omelet with house-made creamy mac ’n’ cheese and duck confit. This is a meal that is just ridiculous and unctuously perfect.

Some of these restaurants serve only breakfast and lunch, some are full service, others are better for late-night adventures. But the thread that binds them is that, although these chefs are not creating the most expensive and lavish dishes on the Strip with the most outrageous roster of ingredients, they, like all chefs, are cooking from the heart.

These five chefs are doing so in minimalist fashion — and doing it their way. Cheers to all of you for cooking outstanding cuisine. Leave your comments below, and give a high-five to your favorite chefs who made the list.

Ink ya next week,

@BenVaughn

Ben Vaughn is a chef, author and TV personality known as a host for the Food Network. Ben’s latest book, “Southern Routes,” chronicles his journey to find the best-kept food secrets in the South from the Carolinas to Texas. “Southern Routes” is published by HarperCollins.

Ben resides in Tennessee and serves as CEO and culinary director for his restaurant group Fork Knife Spoon. Ben’s new brand of Southern Kitchen food trucks hit the streets in Las Vegas. Follow all the action from the mobile kitchen @SoKitchenLV. @BenVaughn also is host of “The Breakfast Show,” a TV series that premiered in the fall.

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