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Hail to the CHEFS

The Creation of a Culinary Empire

Just two decades ago, Las Vegas was a buffet town. Decadent dining simply didn’t exist. Then the city underwent a food revolution and transformed itself into one the world’s top dining destinations.

Wolfgang Puck pioneered the change by opening a Spago restaurant in The Forum Shops at Caesars in 1992. “Spago became the first restaurant with national name recognition to come to Las Vegas,” Puck states. “Now, almost every chef from around the world has a restaurant—or wants to open a restaurant—in Las Vegas.”

Guy Savoy Caesars Palace las

Guy Savoy
Restaurant Guy Savoy
Caesars Palace

“In the theater, you play the same show for everybody. In a restaurant, every table is another show. The sensation is different every night. It’s a live show for every table.”—Guy Savoy

In the 1990s, as new resorts began replacing aging ones on the Strip, gaming companies looked at dining as another way to attract guests. Successful new eateries caught the eye of restaurateurs and celebrity chefs who saw Las Vegas as a viable market for expansion. Puck helped pave the way for other iconic restaurants such as The Palm (1993), Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (2004), Il Mulino New York (2005) and Carmine’s (2013) to open in The Forum Shops and others inside Caesars Palace.

In 2004, Bobby Flay brought Mesa Grill to Las Vegas. “I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished at Caesars Palace,” explains Flay. “Mesa Grill has become not only a stage for me to showcase my love for the Southwest, but it’s become an integral part of Las Vegas. I look forward to all that’s on the horizon.”

Just as Flay was setting up shop on the casino floor near the sports book, Gary Selesner was coming on board as the new president of Caesars Palace. The New York executive put an emphasis on dining and led a food renaissance at the famous resort.

“Food is really important to our customers, particularly our international customers,” reveals Selesner. “What people want is food that is either as authentic as what they have at home, or a rare dining experience. That’s why we reinvented Caesars Palace over the last decade to make food a centerpiece of the Caesars Palace brand.”

Nobu Matsuhisa Nobu Caesars Palace

Nobu Matsuhisa
Nobu Caesars Palace

Selesner’s first move was convincing Guy Savoy to open at Caesars in 2006. “I had an opportunity to go to Paris and dine at Guy’s three-Michelin star restaurant,” he explains. “It was one of the most spectacular eating experiences I ever had, and I wanted to share it with our guests.”

That same year, Selesner brought Italian eatery Rao’s to Caesars Palace out of a fondness for the restaurant’s signature red sauce, he jokes. Other restaurants with New York ties followed, including Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro (2007), Serendipity 3 (2009) and Old Homestead Steakhouse (2011). When Nobu Matsuhisa opened his largest restaurant in 2013, it accompanied the world’s first Nobu Hotel.

Caesars Entertainment’s partnership with Gordon Ramsay began with an upscale steakhouse concept, Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas. Two other Ramsay restaurants followed—Burger at Planet Hollywood and Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace. A fourth, a casual fish and chips joint, arrives at The LINQ Promenade later this year. “Vegas is becoming a second home,” the chef admits.

For Guy Fieri, who graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1990, it was a homecoming. “I remember the beginning of the food revolution in Las Vegas as a college student,” he recalls. “So I was stoked to open my very own restaurant right in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip (at The LINQ Hotel & Casino).”

Giada De Laurentiis GIADA The Cromwell

Giada De Laurentiis
GIADA
The Cromwell

And Los Angeles native Giada De Laurentiis chose Las Vegas as the site for her first restaurant for a simple reason. “The location was number one,” she explains. “I was getting to build a restaurant from scratch on one of the most famous intersections in the world. I would have been a dummy to pass it up.” She opened GIADA at The Cromwell last June.

“It almost seems like Las Vegas’s main attraction is its restaurants,” Puck says of the thriving scene. “Now every resort in the city has amazing restaurants. From fine dining to casual dining, Las Vegas has changed so much. It was once a gaming destination, but today it’s also a culinary destination.”

Gordon Ramsay Gordon Ramsay Steak Paris Las Vegas Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill Caesars Palace Gordon Ramsay Burger Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay Steak
Paris Las Vegas
Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill
Caesars Palace
Gordon Ramsay Burger
Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino

HOW CAESARS PALACE AND LAS VEGAS BECAME A DINING DESTINATION

  • DECEMBER 1992
    Wolfgang Puck brings Spago to The Forum Shops at Caesars—forever changing how Las Vegas sees dining.
  • SEPTEMBER 2004
    Bobby Flay starts serving his bold Southwestern fare at Mesa Grill in Caesars Palace.
  • OCTOBER 2004
    Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab claws its way into The Forum Shops at Caesars to serve its surf ‘n’ turf specialties.
  • MAY 2006
    Restaurant Guy Savoy opens in the Augustus Tower at Caesars Palace. It immediately receives Michelin two-star status.
  • DECEMBER 2006
    Sibling to the legendary NYC eatery (which premiered in 1896), Rao’s at Caesars Palace opens to offer diners its upscale Italian classics.
  • NOVEMBER 2007
    French pastry chef François Payard starts serving sweet confections and savory dishes at his Pâtisserie & Bistro in Caesars Palace.
  • DECEMBER 2011
    Old Homestead Steakhouse opens its first West Coast location at Caesars Palace.
  • MAY 2012
    Gordon Ramsay Steak opens at Paris Las Vegas. It’s the first of three restaurants the fiery chef now operates on the Strip.
  • SEPTEMBER 2012
    Bacchanal Buffet redefines the Las Vegas buffet—opening at Caesars Palace with 9 interactive kitchens serving more than 500 dishes daily.
  • FEBRUARY 2013
    Nobu Matsuhisa unveils his largest restaurant at Caesars Palace along with the world’s first Nobu Hotel.
  • APRIL 2014
    Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar opens at The LINQ Hotel & Casino.
  • JUNE 2014
    Giada De Laurentiis debuts her very first restaurant, GIADA, at The Cromwell.
  • OCTOBER 2014
    Six years after bringing his first Italian eatery to Las Vegas, Steve Martorano opens a second inside Paris Las Vegas.

 

About The Author

Ryan Slattery grew up in Boston. It wasn’t until he moved to Las Vegas in 2003 that the city’s sports teams started winning championships—eight since he left. Now, he’s only allowed back to visit. Ryan is the managing editor of Vegas Player magazine and also writes about travel, entertainment and dining for a number of national publications.

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