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September 22, 2014

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Counter Intelligence: Hubert Keller’s ‘Souvenirs,’ Andrea’s, Rattlecan, Honey Salt and La Casa

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MGM Resorts International

Hubert Keller and a guest at the Surfside Soiree at Mandalay Bay Beach during Day 2 of the 2012 Food & Wine All-Star Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012.

DJ Hubert Keller Spins at Vegas Uncork'd

Chef Hubert Keller spins in the Fiji Water DJ Booth at the Vegas Uncork'd Grand Tasting at Garden of the Gods in Caesars Palace on May 7, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Hot off the grill! Chef Hubert Keller has just celebrated his new book “Souvenirs.” It has 120 amazing recipes and 300 stunning photos of his cuisine, and the 330-page tome is an intimate glimpse of his extraordinary culinary life that began when he was age 16 in France.

As a teenager, he helped his mother, grandmother and brother in the kitchen of his father’s pastry shop in his home village of Ribeauville in Alsace, France. He later moved on to South America and wound up in America, dividing his time between Las Vegas and San Francisco.

His Fleur de Lys in San Francisco is world-renowned. Here, he has Fleur at Mandalay Bay and Burger Bar in Mandalay Place. Hubert is known nationwide for his appearances on “Top Chef,” “Top Chef Masters” and PBS’ “Secrets of a Chef.”

Chef Rick Bayless said: “Never before have I read something that is just as much memoir as cookbook. His intersections of stories and food make me wish I grew up in France.” Thomas Keller (no relation) of French Laundry and Bouchon added, “These are not the recipes we as chefs dream of. These are recipes we as human beings dream of. He writes in the language of food … and memory.”

The book has inspiring and satisfying menus that range from his grandmother’s omelet souffle to his “Top Chef”-winning mac and cheese with shrimp to my favorite baked potato shells stuffed with warm potato salad, soft scrambled eggs, oysters, smoked salmon -- and caviar!

Hubert told me over a celebration five-course dinner of 10 items all published in the book: “For me, the challenge is to put as much excitement into the professional side of cooking -- the execution of a sauce, the combination of flavors and the final presentation of a dish -- as there is interest in the garden and its produce. We let the growers do what they do best, and then it is our turn to display our talent in the culinary arts to put our skills and art to work on the ingredients.”

“Souvenirs” is so warm and intimate, it’s as if you’re in his kitchen cooking shoulder to shoulder with the gracious, gentle chef and his lovely wife, Chantal, who he met and married in his first apprenticeship. Their love for each other is only matched by their love of the food they serve.

EAT, DRINK, SMOKE! Three new restaurants and a luxurious new cigar bar to bring to your attention:

2011 Andre Agassi Grand Slam: Red Carpet and Show

The Andre Agassi Grand Slam for Children red carpet and benefit gala at Wynn Las Vegas on Oct. 29, 2011. Performers included Jimmy Kimmel, Smokey Robinson, Martina McBride, Jeffrey Ross, Train, Signature and Michael Buble. Launch slideshow »

ANDREA’S: Hotel tycoon Steve Wynn has confirmed that he’s naming the former Switch at his Encore after his wife Andrea; Andrea’s opens Dec. 28. Steve describes the dining venue as “vibe dining,” a combination restaurant and nightlife experience. Andrea’s completes the additions to Encore Beach Club and Surrender.

The 6,194-square-foot restaurant has a 2,100-square-foot terrace overlooking Surrender with 155 seats. There’s a step-up dining room, a socializing lounge, private dining enclaves and hexagon tables for large groups. Resident DJ Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia will direct the sweet sounds as musical chef to accompany the Asian cuisine with dim sum.

RATTLECAN: A Lower Manhattan East Side vibe is headed to the Venetian with the opening of Rattlecan in a few days, and one highlight will be a mechanical pickle -- and that’s no bull. Order a shot, get a token and take a ride. The urban burger concept comes from First Food and Bar chef Sammy DeMarco and designer Antonio Ballatore.

Street chic graffiti by top street artists are part of the design. Build your own burger or tackle the signature “rattle can” burger accompanied by the Rattlecan shot of Jameson and pickle juice. Sammy said: “Our focus is giving customers great burgers and a killer atmosphere to enjoy it.”

HONEY SALT: Husband-and-wife culinary team Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau are winning raves for their family-friendly Honey Salt in Summerlin. I love that waiters come to tables with cigar boxes that hide the cutlery for the menu.

Click to enlarge photo

Elizabeth Blau of Blau & Associates with business partner Jason Lapin, center, and husband Kim Canteenwalla at Honey Salt, a new restaurant at 1031 S. Rampart Blvd. in Summerlin, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012.

Kim features his wife’s favorite salad, and he has his grandmother’s tiffin-styled chicken curry. The food is fresh and comes from California farms the couple visit regularly. The tables and chairs don’t match, which adds to the at-home feel. “That’s exactly what I wanted,” Elizabeth told me. “Exactly as if you were eating in our kitchen at home. There, we don’t have room for all the people we’d like to entertain at home. Here at the restaurant, we can do that.”

LA CASA: A new cigar lounge with giant walk-in humidor and private humidified lock boxes has opened at Tivoli Village. Ismail Houmani is founder and director of La Casa, and he has everything a cigar aficionado could ever want. There’s an outdoor patio, Latin-themed musicians and a leather clubroom. He tells me he’ll have cigar rollers some nights and will soon launch his Las Vegas 21 cigar brand being prepared in Nicaragua from Cuban tobacco seeds.

He who eats well lives well -- Buon appetito!

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.

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