By E.C. Gladstone
Though it was filmed all over town, and involved some of our most famous culinary stars, Bravo’s Top Chef: Las Vegas season, which just wrapped broadcasting earlier this month, kept a relatively low profile inside the Las Vegas hotels. Now that the season’s over, however, fans can follow in the footsteps of the cheftestants … and have a fantastic foodie tour in the process.
The show was based at the south-of-the-Strip M Resort, a popular Las Vegas hotel among locals, with several strong dining choices, from the Studio B Buffet (whose broadcast-quality demostration kitchens were used throughout the series) to the top-floor view spot Veloce Cibo.
Second episode guest judge Todd English has been a presence in Vegas since his Olives restaurant opened at Bellagio ten years ago; he also just opened Beso, his Latin-inspired collaboration with Eva Longoria-Parker, at Crystals CityCenter.
Nellis Air Force Base, where the cheftestants performed their third major challenge, isn’t typically a tourist destination, however once a year (usually in the fall) it hosts Aviation Nation, an impressive free air show.
Episode four featured many of Vegas’ finest French chefs dining at the incomparable restaurant of Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, MGM Grand. If you can’t quite budget
for the full tasting experience there, you may want to try his more approachable L’Atelier next door.
Or, some of the other chefs have restaurants at other Las Vegas hotels, including Hubert Keller’s Fleur De Lys (Mandalay Bay), Daniel Boulud’s DB Brasserie (Wynn), Jean Joho’s Eiffel Tower Restaurant (Paris Las Vegas), or even Laurent Tourondel’s not-terribly-French BLT Burger (Mirage).
Sandy Valley Ranch was the location of the next episode. Forty-five minutes north of Vegas, the 160-acre ranch offers adventures ranging from cattle drives to romantic covered wagon stays.
In episode seven, back at the M Resort, Marinelli’s Authentic Italian was the location of the deconstruction challenge judged by Rio‘s magic stars Penn & Teller. Bet you didn’t know the magicians wrote their own cook book way back when, enticingly titled How To Play With Your Food.
Though Charlie Palmer’s annual Pigs & Pinot event is actually held in Napa Valley, Top Chef paid tribute to it with a challenge at Palmer’s elegant Aureole restaurant at Mandalay Bay (Charlie Palmer Steak at the Four Seasons and the Stirling Club are his two other restaurants in Vegas).
Sustainable seafood sovereign Rick Moonen hosted the next challenge at his RM Seafood restaurant (Mandalay Place), which offers everything from amazing clam chowder to remarkable sushi and even great burgers!
Host chef Tom Collichio’s Craftsteak (MGM Grand) was the next location, but with a twist: the chefs had to cook for vegetarian actress Natalie Portman. Luckily, the beef house also happens to feature some of the best vegetable dishes you can find at Las Vegas hotel restaurants, from Persian cucumber salad to an addictive corn casserole.
There are few culinary destinations in Vegas finer than Wynn resort’s elegant restaurant Alex, which hosted the final Vegas-based challenge. Judges naturally included chef Alex Stratta along with his Wynn neighbor Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller of the Venetian‘s Bouchon as well as some notable out-of-towners.
Insider Tip: Wonder where the top chefs of Vegas like to eat? One of the worst kept secrets in town, Raku Japanese grill house is a well known after-hours destination for many of our best!
Veteran entertainment and travel writer E. C. Gladstone writes regularly on top Strip entertainers, restauranteurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes players for many local and national publications and Web sites. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when absolutely necessary.