As of April 30, 2008 Bryan Ogden will no longer be top toque at Bradley Ogden. As justifiably renowned as pere Bradley is, it is son Bryan who has put and kept this restaurant at or near the top of must try Vegas restaurants for the past five years. His ever changing menus of intricate, but accessible American food has never failed to astonish even the most jaded gourmand, and no matter what spin Caesars Palace tries to put on his leaving, this place will never be quite the same. Now he heads for SoCal to the land of swimming pools, movie stars, big egos and bad manners. We wish him well, and we will miss him.
Click to hear my final tribute to Bryan on KNPR Nevada Public Radio
Some of the best meals I’ve had over the past five years have been at Bradley Ogden-the award-winning restaurant in Caesars Palace. In 2004 it won the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant In America-and has been firing on all cylinders ever since. I would even argue that Bradley Ogden is one of those rare restaurants that keep getting better with every year-something I definitely felt after a stunning progression of dishes I enjoyed there a few months ago. In fact, as I usually do once a year before our weather turns thermonuclear, I recently made the rounds of all of our top eateries, and as great as the food was at Robuchon, Savoy, ALEX, Le Cirque and others—and I’d have to say my meal at Bradley Ogden was the most memorable.
For years I’ve maintained that the name of the place should be changed to BRYAN OGDEN, because as famous and acclaimed as dad Bradley is, it’s son Bryan who brings the goods and is in the kitchen every day and night creating all that excellence. Another thing Bryan has done, besides keep cynical restaurant critics happy, is to train and nurture and set a new standard for young chefs in this town. His kitchen is filled with his acolytes: young folks who are as passionate about blending American ingredients with European techniques as he is. And he is famously quoted as saying that no one in his kitchen is there for the paycheck; they cook great food in a great restaurant because that’s what defines them. I’ve met many of them, and I believe him.
Now, sadly, this five-year run of fabulous food may be coming to an end. When Bryan called me over the weekend to say he was moving on-heading to Los Angeles-to cook in the land of swimming pools and movie stars-it put me into a funk in more ways than one. Of course I’ll miss the intensity of his cooking, but what we all will miss will be his presence-the presence of a budding superstar who decided our star-canoodling, and hyper-controlled casino cooking environment were no longer to his liking. And I’m equally sure, like all young chefs, he has dreams of his own, very personal, human-sized restaurant—not a 200 seat food factory—and looked around Las Vegas and decided that competing with the Claim Jumper just wasn’t worth it.
What will happen to Bradley Ogden the restaurant is anyone’s guess. But it won’t be the same. Bryan’s number one, David Varley, is also gone—but at least he’s sticking around—as chef d’cuisine at the spanking new DJT in the Trump International-where I hope he finds his niche.
As for Bryan, all I can do is wish him well, plan on more trips to Southern California, and take solace in a famous quote about peripatetic chefs that fits Bryan Ogden to a tee: “He was a great chef, as chefs go, and as chefs go, he went.”