Food Network personalities, winners of TV cooking competitions and other celebrity chefs are popping up all over Las Vegas.
Some open their own restaurants, others work as head of the kitchen in someone else's, but regardless, it is now common to tout a popular chef's name along with a menu to entice diners in the door.
"There have been celebrity chefs arriving in waves over the years," said Brock Radke, food editor for Greenspun Media Group, which owns several publications in Las Vegas. "Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse were the first famous chefs to come here and open restaurants, but it seems like every few years, a new group of celebrity chefs comes in."
Joining Puck and Lagasse over the years have been dozens of others, including Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Nobu Matsuhisa. But just having their names emblazoned on menus, over doorways and on resort websites doesn't ensure diners will necessarily find them in those restaurants. These chefs certainly visit their namesake eateries at least a few times a year, but they often aren't part of the day-to-day operations.
"You have a chance to catch someone in the kitchen, but there are very few who are based in Las Vegas," Radke said.
The primary exceptions to this rule are Las Vegas residents Rick Moonen, who has two restaurants at the Shoppes at Mandalay Place, and Kerry Simon, who has restaurants at the Palms and Harrah's and in downtown Las Vegas. Both are often found at their namesake eateries.
Additionally, big names in the culinary world tend to be more visible when they first open their restaurants in Las Vegas to make sure the food is well received, the dining environment meets their expectations and guests are happy.
This year, luminaries opening restaurants in Las Vegas have included Bobby Flay (Bobby's Burger Palace at Crystals), Giada De Laurentiis (Giada at the Cromwell), Guy Fieri (Guy's American Kitchen & Bar at the Quad, soon to be the Linq Hotel) and Daniel Boulud (DB Brasserie at the Venetian), and they've all been spotted in their respective establishments and around the city.
The best way for the average Las Vegas visitor to truly embrace the celebrity chef culture, including seeing the chefs themselves, is to attend one of the city's culinary festivals.
Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit, held every May, is one of the most popular. The event's Grand Tasting in particular attracts dozens of award-winning chefs in the flesh, such as Gordon Ramsay, who has three restaurants on the Strip; Mario Batali; Boulud; Thomas Keller; and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
"They're out there cooking and interacting with people," Radke said. "It's quite the experience."