With the aid of major television networks, viewers have been able to follow their favorite TV personalities for years. This voyeuristic quality has allowed us to relate to these celebrities on more personal levels, often seeing different facets of their character that allow us to dissociate them from their claim to fame. Most celebrities reign in the art of music and film, but a recent shift has changed in our culture that carries large emphasis on food. If these renowned chefs aren’t hosting their own show on a major network, they’re either appearing as guests on popular talk shows, or critiquing aspiring chef’s dishes on reality food-competition shows. A trip to Vegas could perhaps ensure celebrity gazing, but why delve into the time consuming task of celebrity hunting when you could just celebrity hunt restaurant style? In a city where entertainment and fame is second nature to all, there’s a reason why celebrity chefs have extended their restaurant roots to the city of sinful dining. Perhaps you’re familiar with these famous restaurants and the names behind it, but who were they before they became renowned culinary experts?
Before holding the prestigious honor of being the official caterer for the Academy and Grammy Awards for the past fourteen years, Chef Wolfgang Puck’s distinct personality definitely gave him an advantage in breaking through the culinary industry. He carefully observed his mother’s techniques since she worked as a pastry chef in the small Austrian town where he grew up. Puck had a strong interest in the West Coast and very quickly sparked interest among Hollywood’s influential crowd where he took co-ownership of the restaurant Ma Maison at the age of 25. Puck’s official flagship restaurant, Spago, was launched in West Hollywood, and Spago Las Vegas was later opened due to the success of his innovative haute cuisine pizzas. Puck revolutionized gourmet pizza culture by creating pies that were topped with smoked salmon, caviar and, Sonoma baby lamb with braised greens and rosemary. Spago earned honorary awards including “Outstanding Chef of the Year” and” Restaurant of the Year.” Puck’s charismatic personality is perfect for television--he even won an Emmy for his award winning show Wolfgang Puck that debuted on The Food Network in 2000. Aside from his catering duties, Puck also has a reoccurring role on the hit show Las Vegas, where he plays himself. He has also battled amongst other culinary experts on Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters. Most recently, Puck appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef in both Las Vegas and New York seasons. Amazingly, in the midst of his vivacious career, Puck has managed to launch his own empire, including Wolfgang Puck Fine dining, Wolfgang Puck Catering and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide. All divisions of his company are committed to the excellence of his brand by providing some of the best styles of cuisine in his many restaurants and catering services.
Known as the chef with vibrant personality who likes to, “Kick it up a notch,” Chef Emeril Lagasse’s loving personality is very evident in his passion for food. Although he’s known for his Cajun style cooking, Lagasse reigned from Fall River, Massachusetts, son of a Canadian father and Portuguese mother. It wasn’t until his teenage years where he began working in a Portuguese bakery when Lagasse really discovered his talent for cooking. Although he did receive a scholarship to New England Conservatory of Music, he abandoned his love for percussions in hopes of becoming a chef. After graduating from Johnson and Wales in 1978, Lagasse became executive chef of Commander’s Palace in 1982. Going back to his love for Cajun style cooking, Lagasse opened his first restaurant in New Orleans in 1990. Lagasse’s home-base for his corporate office is located in New Orleans, the same city in which he launched many of his original restaurants. Emeril has two restaurants in Las Vegas-- Lagasse’s Stadium, located in The Palazzo hotel, which is a gourmet sports grill, and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House which is housed in the MGM Hotel. Lagasse has also launched restaurants in Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, and Gulfport. All of his restaurants showcase his interpretation of Creole cooking, where he blends prominent Asian, Portuguese, and Southwestern cooking into a New Orleans influenced style of cuisine. Renowned for his two shows on The Food Network, The Essence of Emeril and Emeril Live, Lagasse quickly became a food sensation as he encouraged his viewers to embrace unusual spices and herbs to elevate ordinary meats and poultry. Lagasse is known for his unique blend of spice concoctions that he frequently uses on his shows and is commercially sold in several flavors. In 2010, Lagasse collaborated with Chef Mario Batali in a battle against Bobby Flay and Cristeta Comerford in an episode of Iron Chef America. Today, Lagasse has commercial food items sold nationwide in grocery stores that includes pastas sauces, marinades, salsas, and his signature Essence spice blend.
No stranger to The Food Network as well, Chef Bobby Flay is owner of 10 restaurants and has hosted 7 shows on The Food Network. Making his way into the culinary world by initially working at pizza parlors in New York and a position held at Baskin-Robbins, after dropping out of high school at the age of 17, Flay took on a position making salads in New York City in the Theatre District. A business partner to Flay’s father took a strong interest in his culinary skills and actually paid for his tuition to attend the French Culinary Institute. Just a week after receiving his culinary degree, he became a sous-chef and then executive chef just after a week of working at the Brighton Grill. Flay quickly realized that he wasn’t prepared for this level of responsibility and turned down the position and decided to take a lower position at another restaurant in the city. After meeting and working with restaurateur Jonathon Waxman, Flay was introduced to Southwestern and Cajun style cooking, which is undeniably the type of cuisine he is known for today. With the need for more Southwestern restaurants in New York, Flay was offered the opportunity to open Mesa Grill, which first launched in 1991 in New York City. Mesa Grill found its way to Las Vegas in 2004 where Flay’s traditional Southwest cuisine is alive in all of his dishes. Away from the restaurant business, Flay has a tremendous impact on television shows, most notably Boy Meets Grill and Throwdown with Bobby Flay which are on The Food Network, along with his appearances on Iron Chef America. Flay is currently hosting America’s Next Great Restaurant which airs on NBC where he is looking to invest in an original restaurant concept idea.
Bravo’s hit show Top Chef has been a huge success for aspiring chef’s to showcase their talent. In the cast of judges, Chef Tom Collichio stands as the head judge for the television series. Before finding his way to television, Collichio grew up in New Jersey and spent his childhood with a deep love for food that was greatly influenced by his mother and grandmother. His farther pushed him to make a career out of his love for food so Collichio actually taught himself how to cook with the help of Jacques Pepin’s famous La Technique and La Methode. He took on his first job in his native town in New Jersey at a local seafood restaurant. He later left New Jersey to work in very prominent establishments in New York City. At this time, The Food & Wine Magazine selected him as one of the top ten “Best New Chefs” and he was also awarded three stars from The New York Times. After opening award-winning restaurants in New York, he opened Crafsteak at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 2002. Since then, he has launched even more restaurants in major cities, taking a large focus on sandwich shops that has 14 locations in New York City. His work on Top Chef has landed the series Emmy Awards and a James Beard award-winning culinary series. He works diligently as a mentor to aspiring chefs as contestants work through various challenges and he stands as the lead judge among his cast and guest judges. He has been a part of all eight seasons of Top Chef while simultaneously launching even more restaurants in New York City. After launching ‘witchcraft, he published his third cookbook which showcases recipes from his gourmet sandwich shop restaurants. For his thirty years of working in the culinary field, Collichio was awarded the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Outstanding Chef” in 2010.
If you’re adequately prepared to celebrity-gaze restaurant style, a visit to either (or perhaps, all) of these restaurants must definitely be a priority. These restaurateurs’ may lack physical presence while you dine, but after indulging in their creative culinary creations their absence will be the least of your worries. Bon appétit!
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