Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 | 1:27 p.m.
Our Vegas DeLuxe columnist Robin Leach is back from his summer vacation and resumes his ramblings with today’s Strip Scribbles. Many of our Strip and Las Vegas personalities stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. Our thanks to them all, but to help Robin as he starts the engines again, we take a trip to the United Arab Emirates with Bellagio’s Prime Steakhouse executive chef Sean Griffin.
I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself and a recent trip I took to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
I had my first taste of the culinary world at age 12 when I began helping at my parent’s restaurant in Southern California. In the years that followed, I spent time in the kitchens of the Mission Inn in Riverside, the Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills and Nero’s at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I was fortunate to lead the team at Bourbon Steak in Scottsdale under chef Michael Mina. Now I am the executive chef of Jean Georges’ Prime Steakhouse at the beautiful Bellagio.
Last February, I participated in “Gourmet Abu Dhabi” in the United Arab Emirates. This yearly event invites top culinary folks from around the world to showcase their food throughout the city. It was an honor to be mentioned alongside talented chefs such as Juan Amador, Jean-Francois Piege, Daniel Patterson and Bruno Menard. The event’s lineup of chefs had a total of 26 Michelin stars among them!
My two sous chefs and I were welcomed into the kitchen of Blue Grill at the Yas Island Rotana hotel. At Blue Grill, we prepared Prime signature dishes such as ribbons of tuna with avocado and ginger marinade and caramelized scallops with roasted beets, pistachios and spring onion vinaigrette. The valhrona molten chocolate cake was the favorite end to most of the meals.
All in all, our menu was composed of seven appetizers, 10 entrees, six sides and three desserts. We had our work cut out for us that week, and the crew at the Yas Island Rotana did an incredible job. They made us feel at ease in their kitchen and adapted quickly to the new menu and product placed before them.
We cooked for a diverse group of guests that week. One night, I met a couple from Texas who made the long flight solely to experience “Gourmet Abu Dhabi.” Another evening, a German family couldn’t get enough of our spaetzle side dish and returned the next evening for another taste.
During our last dinner service, a local Emirati proposed to his fiancee, then promptly asked me how we acquired such a tender texture on the short ribs. It was truly a memorable experience in my cooking career.
During my time in Abu Dhabi and neighboring Dubai, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons between those cities and Las Vegas. They seemed surprisingly similar. The buildings and restaurants, for instance, are beautifully designed with no expense spared. The breathtakingly unique architecture and attractions alone are reason enough to make the trek.
We looked up at the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa), rode the fastest roller coaster on the planet (150 mph!!!) and toured the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with its over-the-top 24-karat gold chandeliers.
Much like Las Vegas several years ago, top chefs have begun establishing themselves in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Culinary heavyweights such as Marco Pierre White, Nobu Matsuhisa and Pierre Gagnaire have made the move, with more on the way. I am excited to see what develops over the next few years, as the potential is huge.
Las Vegas, on the other hand, has already established itself as a world-class dining destination. Our casinos house myriad world’s greatest chefs in the most impressive of settings. The local food scene is flourishing, as well, with many off- Strip restaurants making their delicious mark.
The dining options seem endless at times, which can make the decision of where to eat a tough one. I feel privileged to be part of the great culinary culture that is Las Vegas.
Our thanks to executive chef Sean Griffin and musical group Mo5aic as our final guest columnists this summer as we welcome Robin home to resume today’s Strip Scribbles.
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.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.