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September 2, 2014

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Counter Intelligence: UNLVino, Project Dinner Table and Kerry Simon in Caribbean

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The Venetian

Robin Leach interviews chef Thomas Keller at his restaurant Bouchon in The Venetian.

Thomas Keller’s ‘Bouchon Bakery’ Book Reception

A reception and book signing for Thomas Keller's Launch slideshow »

Award-winning chef Thomas Keller helps kick off the four-day 39th Annual UNLVino tonight at Bubble-licious in The Venetian Strip-side piazzas. He will be presented with the 2013 Dom Perignon Award of Excellence.

On Friday at theSake Fever party at The Mirage, “Iron Chef” kingpin and Food Network hero Masaharu Morimoto will be presented with the Excellence Award.

On Saturday at the Grand Tasting of more than 1,000 wines, the Excellence Award goes to restaurateur Elizabeth Blau, who left Wynn and Encore to launch Honey Salt with husband chef Kim Canteenwalla.

On Sunday, UNLVino expands to a fourth day with a Bar-B-Q at the Keep Memory Alive events center at The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. MGM President Scott Sibella will be presented with the award in front of chefs Charlie Palmer, Scott Conant, Todd English and Gustav Mauler.

“It’s a recognition I would never have dreamed of,” chef Thomas told me before flying here from New York. It’s very exciting. My mom ran restaurants, but because I was the youngest of five boys, I got all the dishwashing duties. But it’s where I learned to become a chef.

“So to the UNLV students tonight, I have two pieces of advice: patience and persistence. This is not a skill you learn overnight. Ten thousand hours will bring the confidence and trust you need. When you are young, you are impatient with lives and careers. When you’ve put in the time, you will have memorable, gratifying and fantastic memories from behind the stove.

“I will tell the UNLV students that they can’t let anybody ever tell them they can’t do anything. It might not be right the first time, but you continue and continue until you reach your goal. When I started cooking in 1974-1977, there wasn’t the recognition and respect there is today. It’s a whole different playing field. Back then, there were very few culinary schools. Today, we have accredited colleges and the entire hospitality campus at UNLV.”

UNLVino was co-founded in 1974 by the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV and Larry Ruvo’s Southern Wine & Spirits. In its 38 years, the annual festival has raised millions of dollars for the scholarship program aiding UNLV students who pursue hospitality careers.

8/7/10 Project Dinner Table: El Cortez Walkway and Emergency Arts

Project Dinner Table at El Cortez Walkway and the Emergency Arts Building on Aug. 7, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Porn Princesses at Simon in Palms Place

Chef Kerry Simon hosted AVN head honcho Paul Fishbein and porn princesses, including Riley Steele, pictured here, and Savanna Samson, at Simon in Palms Place on June 3, 2010. Launch slideshow »

SEASON 4: Chefs from MGM Grand will take over downtown’s Neon Museum on Saturday for Project Dinner Table’s first event of Season 4. More than 200 guests will sit at one long table in Neon Boneyard Park, and dinner will be served family style by chefs of Shibuya, Fiamma Trattoria, Michael Mina’s new Pub 1842, Diego executive chef Christina Olivarez (who won “Chopped” on The Food Network), plus, the hotel’s chefs and pastry stars.

It’s a one-night-only menu in keeping with PDT’s philanthropy and recognition of farm-to-table feasts with growers and sustainable sources. During the dinner, Mayor Carolyn Goodman will read a proclamation declaring April as “Project Dinner Table Month.” There will be six dinners this season at outdoor locations. To date, 3,700 guests have been served and more than $70,000 donated to charities. The next dinner is May 18.

NO WINNERS: I had high hopes for Bon Appetit’s listing of the “10 Best Food Lovers Hotels” announced this month, but they were dashed Wednesday when finalists were revealed in the new edition -- and Las Vegas was once again shut out! Caesars Palace was recognized with a nomination for its new Nobu. The 13 restaurants at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas were recognized, with the spotlight on Jose Andres and David Myers.

However, nada, zero, zip yesterday, and all the more frustrating when you think Bon Appetit will be here next month for its Vegas Uncork’d where chefs, hotels and restaurants go all-out for four days of incredible events. I bet there’ll be frowns as the news slips out that the magazine rewarded us with no recognition, just like the James Beard Awards.

The Top 10 included hotels in Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and South Carolina. Forbes food and travel writer Larry Olmsted said: “I would have handled this differently. Most of these picks are small hotels or inns. If I was asked, I’d start with places that have multiple excellent destination-dining experiences like Las Vegas, where you can eat a standout meal at a different place each night for a week.”

SIMON IN CARRIBEAN: Shades of Las Vegas will show up in the sunny Dominican Republic next month when Palms Place chef Kerry Simon opens a modern California restaurant at The Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Punta Cana. It will be called the Simon Mansion and Supper Club. Kerry, known as the rock and roll chef, has spent a year commuting to the Caribbean island to develop the menu from Caribbean products from the land and the sea.

“It allows me to bring my organic, sustainable and contemporary culinary approach with a seasonally driven menu focusing on fresh quality ingredients,” said Kerry. He proudly showed me the renderings of the restaurant, which has been designed to mirror the home of a rock and roll icon. Multiple rooms, three of which serve as private dining areas, reflect the dining room, living room, bedroom, library and studio of a rock star’s decadent abode with oversized throne chairs, eye-catching fabrics and chandeliers from broken glass.

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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