Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009 | 9:24 a.m.
By Don Chareunsy, Vegas DeLuxe editor
It was no surprise, at least for avid Wynn Race & Sports Book Director Johnny Avello devotees and Top Chef Las Vegas fans, that cheftestant Eli Kirshtein was told to pack up his knives last night by the Bravo series' host, Padma Lakshmi. Johnny has had Kevin Gillespie as a front-runner for most of Season 6, and arrogant Eli was at the bottom heading into last night's Culinary Olympics challenge at star chef Alex Stratta's Alex in the Wynn. In the end, Kevin won a spot in the 2011 Bocuse d'Or, and Eli was sent home.
The results were in line with Alex's first guest judging experience on the show, and he appeared in the episode alongside other Las Vegas luminaries Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Gavin Kaysen. Alex hosted a Top Chef Las Vegas viewing last night at Daniel Boulud Brasserie in the Wynn, and his Wynn culinary colleagues Jet Tila of Wazuzu, Carlos Guia of The Country Club and Paul Bartolotta of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare were among the gathering.
Jet recaps Top Chef Las Vegas for our colleagues here at the Las Vegas Sun each week. (That link goes to his last Jet Stream column, on Robin Leventhal's exit.)
Alex, who is down to Earth, casual and amiable, has been friends with Mr. Vegas DeLuxe Robin Leach for 20 years -- they met during Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous in the late 1980s in Phoenix when Alex was executive chef of The Phoenician. The men renewed their friendship when Alex relocated to Las Vegas 11 years ago at Steve Wynn's invitation to be the executive chef of Renoir at The Mirage. Alex, who owns the French restaurant Alex and Italian restaurant Stratta in the Wynn -- Alex's mother is French, and his father is Italian -- confessed to being tired from running the two restaurants and being the father of 2-year-old twins, but said "I wouldn't change a thing."
Alex mentioned competing in the 1992 Bocuse d'Or, finishing ninth, and is considering becoming active again in the premiere competition next year. He has a prediction for the winner of Top Chef Las Vegas, but I'm going to keep his answer confidential. He says this cheftestant "cooks from the heart."
Alex said he requested that the Top Chef Las Vegas folks clean his kitchen after using it for the episode, and sure enough you see Michael and Bryan Voltaggio and the other cheftestants on kitchen cleanup duty after the challenge is over. Top Chef Las Vegas is down to the Final Four with Jennifer Carroll, the Voltaggio brothers and Kevin. The finale is in California's Napa Valley.
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. Read more of Robin's stories at VegasDeLuxe.com.
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