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August 23, 2014

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Chef Talk:

Lessons in sushi and burgers with chef Laurent Pillard

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Beverly Poppe

Laurent Pillard, executive chef at Fleur and Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay.

Just think of executive chef Laurent Pillard as Hubert Keller’s Las Vegas lieutenant. Pillard opened both Fleur de Lys (now just Fleur) and Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay nine years ago and has been holding it down at Keller’s two Vegas spots ever since.

Favorite sushi spot: Blue Fin Sushi & Roll (3980 E. Sunset Road #102, 898-0090)

Blue Fin looks like your average neighborhood sushi spot, but Pillard is there about every other week. “It’s very small, but you see a lot of locals there and always the same people,” he said. “The chef is someone who used to work for me, and he’s doing a great job. I’m kind of his guinea pig when he has something new on the menu.”

Most important kitchen tool: a great crew

Last year, Pillard helped guide the massive transition of French fine dining institution Fleur de Lys into the global small-plates sensation Fleur. The changeover made the chef realize how consistent—even machine-like—its sister restaurant, Burger Bar, has become. “It’s pretty easy over there, because the crew has been there a long time now. … The first day [at Burger Bar], we did 450 covers, and I thought we would never do that many again. But the first weekend we did 700.”

The secret to the perfect burger: the meat

“Not every place is using the quality of meat we have at Burger Bar, or grinding it. You can tell, because not many restaurants do an eight-ounce burger. When you buy the meat in (patties), it’s usually six ounces. It makes a huge difference.”

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