Have Celebrity Chefs Lost Their Luster?


Daniel Boulud recently closed his two Vancouver restaurants. Gordon Ramsay has opened and closed outlets from Prague to Los Angeles in the past five years, and some wonder if the whole “celebrity chef” thing has suffered from a surfeit of sensationalism (or “fabulous fatigue” as the New York Times dubbed it). Our friend and colleague Steve Dolinsky weighs in with thoughts on these and other chef/restaurant phenomena (and quite a bit of discussion about the Vegas restaurant scene) in this article in the Montreal Globe and Mail (where Ramsay recently opened to (what sounds like) a collective shrug).

Dolinsky (academy chairman for the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants*) makes a telling point in saying: “… the most serious error chefs made in Las Vegas is neglecting their outposts. Upon opening there, many signed contracts with the hotels or casinos in which they operated, which required the chefs’ presence for the first year of business. Once that first year was up, he says, a lot of chefs retreated to their respective home bases, returning to Las Vegas only to make a rare appearance or attend the odd media event.” (As followers of ELV know, we’ve been complaining about such things for the past ten years.)

“If you’re not there minding the stove, customers realize that,” Mr. Dolinsky says, noting that some casino owners have since begun insisting that chefs make greater financial investments, whether by purchasing their own equipment or by splitting profits based on achieving sales targets, so they have more incentive to stick around.”

Gee, we wonder where he got those ideas!?

Personally, ELV and his staff are excited about Ramsay’s opening here. Vegas needs him and he needs Vegas. But he better bring the goods, a la Mario Batali, Guy Savoy, Costas Spiliadis, Scott Conant or Jose Andrés, et al. We don’t need another Charlie Trotter, strutting around like a drunken, undersized rooster, acting like he’s doing everyone a favor by simply showing up.


* Of which ELV is a voting member.

11 thoughts on “Have Celebrity Chefs Lost Their Luster?

  1. As was once said of Joe DiMaggio: “Whatever charm he may have possessed was not readily apparent to anyone who came in contact with him.”

  2. Hey JC Charlie actually has a sharp and hilarious sense of humor, best appreciated at a table or in the kitchen together!! Vegas may not be his best fit but he is a true kick to hang out with! Trust me !!
    Mario b

  3. I agree that the chef appearance has drastically declined. There are the exceptions like Chef.
    Hubert Keller who still visits once or twice a month. Some of us are looking forward. To
    Ramsay’s arrival but find it unclear to when it is actually going to happen

  4. Hm. I think the shine of the celebrity chef phenomenon is fading simply because those of us who regularly pinch pennies are reluctant to spend a lot of money based on the name of someone who doesn’t show up much.

    Actually, John, I heard a rumor that Trotter had a decent personality. I guess like most of us, he only opens up for his peers. {{shameless fawning warning ahead}} Of course, I think the Great Batali is without peer. (bow. scrape. repeat.)

  5. Isn’t it a little weird and contradictory that you post this story about the waning relevance of celebrity chefs in the same week that you write a story for GMG about the lack of dollars the LVCVA spends in marketing Las Vegas and these same said chefs?

  6. ELV responds: It is not weird, it is simply looking at the issue from different perspectives. Vegas needs celebrity chefs the same way it needs Penn and Teller and Celine Dion. It is not interested in being a proving ground for talent….only showcasing those who have already made it.

    No shame in that, but the above article makes many salient points: Mainly that all restaurateurs need to up their game in these troubled times…and not take their markets for granted.

  7. Also not present or readily apparent to anyone who’s come in contact with him: Mario Batali’s neck. If it wasnt for that beard we wouldn’t know where his face ended. Seriously, he’s 3 italian sandwiches away from being a red haired Prudhomme.

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