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‘Top Chef Masters’ host Curtis Stone chats pre-Palazzo pop-up dinners

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Steve Marcus

Show host Curtis Stone and Season 4 judge Krista Simmons arrive for the “Top Chef Masters” Season 4 premiere party at Boulevard Pool in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 25, 2012.

'Top Chef Masters' Season 4 Party

Show host Curtis Stone and Season 4 judge Krista Simmons arrive for the Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Show host Curtis Stone arrives for the "Top Chef Masters" Season 4 premiere party at Boulevard Pool in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Wednesday, July 25, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih, center, poses for photos with hosts Curtis Stone and Natalie Morales after winning the 2010 Miss USA Pageant at Planet Hollywood on May 16, 2010.

2010 Miss USA Pageant: Rima Fakih

Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih, center, poses for photos with hosts Curtis Stone and Natalie Morales after winning the 2010 Miss USA Pageant at Planet Hollywood on May 16, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Celebrity chef, author and Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” host Curtis Stone is in Las Vegas today and Saturday for two pop-up dinners at Restaurant Carnevale, formerly chef Charlie Trotter’s Restaurant Charlie, at the Palazzo, and it’s a chance for the tall, blond and 37-year-old Aussie to do one of his favorite things — cook for his fans.

“I get to do all sorts of stuff — TV shows, write books — but the most special part of all this is when I get to meet the fans, and, actually better than that … I get to cook for them,” Stone said at Restaurant Carnevale on Thursday morning.

The pop-up dinners with Stone from 6 to 10 p.m. today and Saturday are $200 and include a champagne reception, a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings and an autographed copy of Stone’s new book “What’s for Dinner? Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life.”

Incidentally, Season 5 of “Top Chef Masters” kicked off Wednesday night, with Sushi Samba’s Herb Wilson the first castoff. Wilson hosts a party, Sushi Samba and Sake, at his Palazzo hotspot at 10 p.m. Saturday, the end time for Stone’s pop-up dinner. Stone is expected to pop by Wilson’s party.

Here is the Q+A with heartthrob Stone, husband of actress Lindsey Price and father of Hudson Stone:

What are you looking forward to most this weekend at your two pop-up dinners?

There are so many amazing foodie experiences going on out here. I get to do all sorts of stuff — TV shows, write books — but the most special part of all this is when I get to meet the fans, and, actually better than that, on Friday and Saturday, I get to cook for them.

What would be the perfect dinner for you to prepare?

My food is really market driven. I love to grow my own vegetables. I have a big veggie garden at home and great relationships with farmers, growers, purveyors, fisherman and butchers. It depends on the season, so right now of course we’re in the heat of summer, tomatoes are fantastic, cherries are brilliant, berries are still good. The stone fruits — peaches plums, nectarines, apricots — are all incredible. That’s how I let my food be driven; by the ingredients.

Any plans for fun away from work while in Las Vegas?

They’ve got a really fun pool party here at Palazzo. I’m definitely going to get up there and catch a little sun, maybe on Sunday when all the hard work’s been done.

When you are in Las Vegas, what are your favorite things to do?

I love all the stuff on the Strip, of course; there are amazing things to do. I don’t mind to gamble. I love sitting at a craps table for a little bit of time. I also like to get off the Strip. Lake Las Vegas is amazing. I have some friends who live out there. It’s a beautiful part of Las Vegas. The Grand Canyon; I’ve flown over it a couple of times, and I was lucky enough last time to cook on a reservation. I’ve been spoiled when I come to Vegas.

Any restaurants on your must-dine list?

I love brunch at Bouchon. It’s definitely one of my favorite places to go; great coffee and good pastries. I’ll definitely hit that up. Jose Andres has a little room called E at The Cosmopolitan, which I ate at last time I was here; it was phenomenal.

Would you ever open a restaurant in Las Vegas?

I’ve loved to, yeah, absolutely! The first time I came to Vegas, I was 30 years old and had my birthday here. It was the first time I came to the States. It’s the reason I’m still here. I ended up shooting a pilot while I was here on that trip. That turned into “Take Home Chef,” which was 140 episodes, and I’ve never left. I love Vegas, and I could really see opening a restaurant here.

Pubs and burger places are popping up left and right in Las Vegas. What do you think is the next food trend?

I think American barbecue. There’s an entire culture around American barbecue that at the moment isn’t so widespread. There’s this unbelievable culture around it. It’s almost like a religion in some parts of the country.

What you have enjoyed most about hosting “Top Chef Masters”?

It’s such a special job. I get to eat some of the best food from the best chefs in the country. We have amazing talent on the show, and we put them under crazy pressure and stress. It’s so entertaining as a chef to watch it because I think, “This is how I’d go about the task. I’d do this, and I’d do that.” I watch the chefs and their different approaches. Invariably, they all do a pretty good job; some do an amazing job. It really is a dream job to sit there and dine and comment on everyone’s food.

What has been most surprising about hosting the Bravo series?

It’s funny; the TV landscape has gone through such a change. There aren’t a lot of cooking shows on the air anymore; there’s a lot of culinary competition shows.

Per Wednesday night’s season premiere, no skydiving for you?

No skydiving for me; no, I’m a chicken (laughs).

You said in a recent interview that you had an amazing meal at Jose Andres’ Jaleo in The Cosmopolitan. Why was it a standout experience?

What Jose does with ingredients and the way he thinks about it, it’s really something else. He is a fantastic chef and does beautiful things with ingredients. It’s really fascinating; he completely challenges the way you think about food.

Everyone asks you about your hair. I’m not going to ask you about your hair. Unless you want to say something about your hair?

It’s so funny that people do ask me about it because I literally don’t do much to it. Whatever (laughs)?!

What is your go-to, guilty-pleasure food?

I think it’s probably tacos, to be honest. I live in L.A., and East L.A. has some gritty little taco trucks that serve some delicious tacos. So I’ll quite often go for a late-night run. And chocolate — I’m a self-confessed chocoholic — I love it.

Tickets for Curtis Stone’s pop-up dinners tonight and Saturday may be purchased by calling The Venetian | Palazzo box office at (702) 414-9000 and going online at Palazzo.com/carnevale.

Don Chareunsy is editor of Vegas DeLuxe and senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

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 VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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