Ego? What Ego? The World’s Greatest Restaurant Critic Has No Ego…



Posted September 30, 2010 • 8:04 p.m.

Max Jacobson, John Curtas and Al Mancini.

Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage

The eagerly awaited and highly anticipated book Eating Las Vegas: The 50 Essential Restaurants has been completed, and the prized selections are now wrapped in total secrecy. Vegas DeLuxe has learned that the manuscript is on its way to the printers and should be on bookshelves in time for a planned mid-November release party.

Three of our respected — and sometimes feared — food critics John Curtas, Max Jacobson and Al Mancini have collaborated on the countdown, and all had to agree unanimously on the final 50 after visiting each restaurant separately. All three have separately admitted that when it comes to food and restaurants that they have giant egos that often clashed during the difficult assignment of narrowing our Valley’s greatest down to just 50.

Chefs and restaurant owners already are nervous, fearful but excited about being left out or included in the book, which is likely to become a Bible of eating here. Vegas DeLuxe also has learned that the final event in the book’s production was a photo shoot just days ago at Alex Stratta’s elegant Alex at the Wynn.

Leach Blog Photo

Food critic Al Mancini briefly stepped in to judge for comedian Carrot Top during the Whole Foods Markets Quickfire Challenge.

Our highly reliable spywitness reported: “As usually happens when these three authors get together, there’s tension in the air. They were bickering before the shoot even got started, and by the time they actually started the photography, there was occasional throwing of things across the table. But that never got too far out of control because of the setup of the shoot. It was a great, creative shot!

“Not only were they in one of the most elegant restaurants in town, they also were surrounded by an incredible feast of food with the finest wines, scotches and sakes available. These included one Marie Jeanne of Chateau Petrus 1961 (Marie Jeanne is a bottle that contains 2.25 liters) valued at $100,000 and one double magnum of Romanee — Conti Domaine de la Romanee — Conti 1985, also valued at $100,000.

“As you might expect, Fabrice Bals of Alex wasn’t thrilled with the authors getting a little aggressive around those bottles. In fact, he was the only one permitted to touch the bottles, and he looked a little terrified when the writers began throwing things within a few inches of them.

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KNPR food critic John Curtas samples his wine before judging.

“As a result, photographer Denise Truscello’s original vision of capturing the natural tension in what probably would have escalated into an all-out food fight was thwarted by the fact that the $200,000 worth of wine and expensive spirits had to be protected. Nonetheless, the photos, which came out great, will give a pretty good idea of what the process of getting three gigantic egos to agree on a single book was like over the past seven to eight months.”

Vegas DeLuxe managed to obtain one of the shots, but as of now, we do not know if this is the final one that will be used. We’ll have more of the difficult behind-the-scenes process in future weeks as Las Vegas nervously awaits the 50 names. We’ve also learned that the final Top 10 will not be listed in a numerical countdown because the three could not agree on a ranking, which was a mandate of their book. However, they did all agree on which restaurants should be in that Top 10.

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.

ELV note: Pre-order your copies of Eating Las Vegas by clicking on the book cover on the upper left. Only $10.36!

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