John Curtas is …

7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Line Up to Eat at Giada’s New Restaurant

http://ethnicelebs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Giada-De-Laurentiis.jpg

Who cares if she can cook?

After reading this bought-and-paid-for piece of public relations drivel today, we at ELV thought the record ought to be set straight about why restaurants like Giada’s should be approached gingerly, if at all, and always with a sense of healthy skepticism about what is really going on.

So, let’s go over the 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Line Up to Eat at Giada’s New Restaurant:

1) She’s a celebrity.*

2) She’s the child of a celebrity.

3) She’s not a restaurateur or a restaurant chef.

4) She’s not running the restaurant.

5) She doesn’t own the restaurant.

6) Everything you read about her is nothing but p.r. fluff.

7) There’s lots of Italian food in town you don’t have to humiliate yourself for.

Shall we elaborate? Why not?

To begin with, Giada De Laurentiis is a brand. A brand carefully calculated to extract the maximum amount of dollars off the credulous public.

She isn’t a restaurateur and has never owned one.

She still doesn’t own one. (see below)

(One also questions her bona fides about having worked in restaurant kitchens, since, as a child of celebrity, we think she hardly was slaving away to make a living.)

ELV (being himself to the menu born) appreciates how Giada has had to pull herself up by her bootstraps to make it in this cold cruel world. We understand that the demands of being married to a famous designer, and having a famous grandfather, and actor/producer parents and having people throw themselves at your feet because of your lobster arancini can be a trying, difficult existence.

We also understand that having a big hotel like Caesars throw millions of dollars at you in order to capitalize on your celebrity can be arduous. (We asked Caesars how much they paid her to use her name and received no response.)

Everyone in town knows the drill by now: big name chef or celeb gets courted, paid anywhere from 1-5 mil, and has the casino build out everything for them and operate the restaurant with its employees. After the initial press blitz,  they then waltz in for photo ops 3-4 times a year (as obligated by contract) and to impress the beggars at the banquet, i.e. the local press.

Make no mistake — Giada and her money men have no skin in this game. Neither does Gordon Ramsay. Same is true for all of the celeb joints at Caesars and MGM properties. Venetian/Palazzo restaurants are different, as they are just like tenants in a mall — with the mall owner, i.e. the casino being a partner and taking a share of the proceeds.

(FYI: We also asked Caesars what the deal was with Giada, and, as usual, they declined to comment — for fear, no doubt, that if anyone looks behind the curtain, all they’ll see is a bunch of union cooks, instead of anyone associated with the “celebrity” they’re paying through the nose to use as a brand name.)

So, to recap, you have a food “personality” who licenses her name to a casino, who will pretend she’s a hands-on operator, when, in fact, all she’s there to do is make p.r. appearances, pose for pictures, and try to convince the gullible tourists that she’s actually involved in something in which she is not.

On the plus side, we’re sure she’s a lovely person who deserves all the fame and fortune that comes her way. But, as former Texas Governor Ann Richards said about George Bush Jr.: “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking little Miss De Laurentiis — born amidst melted chocolate and whipped egg whites — has actually baked (or is baking) the whole soufflé.

And don’t forget for one second that if she wasn’t good looking — with an accent that can melt butter and a jaw line that could cut Parmigiano-Reggiano — no one would give a tinker’s dam about her family recipes.

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* Eating Las Vegas has nothing against celebrity chefs, but invariably, the ones famous for being chefs before they become celebrities bring more to the party; cf. every famous French chef on the planet.

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32 Responses to 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Line Up to Eat at Giada’s New Restaurant

  • These casinos should spend some real money on talent and give Luciano Pellegrini a restaurant. No body better with pasta or birds imho.

  • Here, Here! J.C., Bullseye!

  • Great piece. Maybe the restaurant will be decent. But if it is, it will in no way be a result of the namesake or her involvement (or lack thereof). Sadly, it doesn’t need to be decent. It’s going to make a truckload of money from myriads of tourists who don’t know better.

  • I agree with most of what you said however the MGM owned restaurants that are represented by celebrity chefs I can speak first hand, I have seen Julian Serrano multiple times at Picasso and Tapas at Aria with a chef jacket on dirty and working in the kitchen to execute, I have witness Michael Mina working in the kitchen at American Fish as well as I have witnessed Tom Coliccio working at Craftsteak multiple occasions.

  • Is Guy Savoy the exception at Caesars?

    Jean-Marie Josselin (late of 808) is back home on Kauai, working wonders and behind the stoves practically every night. I’ve even seen him early morning (6:30 AM) accepting and overseeing the produce deliveries.

  • It is clear I am in the minority opinion of the followers of this site. Food and Service at restaurants change so a lot of times people experiences at those places do vary. I tend to agree with Mr. Curtas more than 50% of the time. But I do not agree when he has already decided about a new restaurant before even trying the food. I am unsure if Mr. Curtas is a member of the Association of Food Journalists or whether Mr. Curtas even considers himself a Journalist but there are obligations to attempt to give a fair review. Reviewing a restaurant before it opens and he has not tried the food is outrageous. How can Mr. Curtas even try the food now with these preconceptions.

    Info from AFJ Site

    New Restaurants
    To be fair to new restaurants, reviewers should wait at least one month after the restaurant starts serving before visiting. These few weeks give the fledgling enterprise some time to get organized, and helps distinguish the professional critic’s opinion from online chatter.

    If, however, a restaurant must be visited because of timeliness, enormous reader interest or journalistic competitiveness, consider offering readers “first impressions.” This piece should be more descriptive than critical, avoid labeling it as a review if possible. The emphasis of such a sneak preview could be on the fledgling restaurant’s clientele, its decor and maybe the chef’s background rather than a blow-by-blow account of the menu (though food would, of course, be mentioned.)

    In recognition of the diverse and changing opinions on waiting periods, it’s ideal to acknowledge in your review when you visited the restaurant. Did you go on the first day? Did you wait three months? Say so.

    Negative Reviews
    Negative reviews are fine, as long as they’re accurate and fair. Critics must always be conscious that they are dealing with people’s livelihoods. Negative reviews, especially, should be based on multiple visits and a broad exploration of the restaurant’s menu. Following a consistent reviewing policy without deviation may protect a critic from charges of bias or favoritism, while providing a platform from which to defend the review.

  • Give Caesar’s what’s Caesar’s
    Give restaurants to real chefs please

  • In fairness to our esteemed critic, this is what he is up against in Las Vegas – in addition to point #6 above, try this, by one of the most appropriately named agents of the media world: http://www.lasvegassun.com/vegasdeluxe/2014/apr/30/giada-de-laurentiis-ready-join-all-male-caesars-en/.

    It is just another cog in the absurd hype machine that continues to convince Strip customers to pay way over the top, for food that will only rarely ever be cooked by the celebrity chef on the marquee. At least John brings a dose of honesty to the process (One can not help but be amused that at the end of each Robin Leach column he is still portrayed as being a “journalist”).

  • Does this mean you won’t be getting any free meals to ‘review”?

  • I wonder if they will open a small gift shop to sell her cookware and labeled foods?! OMG! ;) think of the possibilities— cookbooks–wines–Signed placemats!!!

  • ELV responds: While he is not an official member of the Association of Food Journalists, ELV considers his ethics, attitude and behavior more in line with its code of conduct than most restaurant reviewers he’s encountered — most of whom have been reduced to begging for free food in exchange for writing whatever pleases the p.r. reps at the subject matter being written about and their publication of record.

    Furthermore, a careful reading of the post would show it has nothing to do with “reviewing” the restaurant or the food. Our only intent is to lift the (incessant, misleading) veil that invariably accompanies these “celeb” restaurants and remind the public (at least the few paying attention) that it’s all a big p.r. sham. Giada is no more running the restaurant than
    an actor is running the company he does commercials for.

    And if you read between the lines of the stupid post on Eater Las Vegas about the “17 Things You Should Know About Giada’s New Restaurant” you’ll see what she’s really doing is picking out the drapes and carpet. Once the hubub dies down, she’ll show up a few times a year to take pictures….just like her contract obligates her to do.

  • Hmph. I *do* like to watch Giada on TV. She’s so smiley and pretty and nice. A true guilty pleasure. (And an enigma — how does she stay so friggin’ thin?!) But damnit… John Curtas is right. Again. Totally and utterly and completely on target.

  • Nothing against Giada herself — she chose not to use her family’s name to become an actress or model, went to Le Cordon Bleu, became a caterer, and *then* became famous. She’s no Milliken & Feniger, but she’s no Rachael Ray, either. We’ll wait and see if her restaurant is good or not… after all, who thought the Cake Boss would have a great place?

  • Thanks for captioning that picture. It saved me the trouble have having to ask who the fatty in the poor fitting suit was.

  • Great piece…
    Totally true. Union workers with no love. A true celebrity chef would be hands on training their team. I’m not excited about this new restaurant. Are they her recipes?

  • The author is wrong. I have been party to a number of different restaurant deals. It would be the rare exception that the celebrity chef is actually PAID the kind of money that you are describing. Their income is almost always based off of the revenues of the restaurant. Further, there have been very few restaurants in the past few years which the casino built out completely as you described. Most restaurants have been leased from the casinos and the build-out is paid for by the tenant company that actually owns the restaurant business. While I have no idea about the quality of Giada’s restaurant, you are misinformed about the business side of restaurants in Las Vegas. It is an equal assault on the public to print misinformation like this, as it is to parade a celebrity chef around that doesn’t cook. This column has left me with a loss a lot of trust in ELV.com.

  • i do not understand why a reviewer must wait 1 month for anything. from the minute a restaurant is charging full/normal price they must be ready. what other business would get a way with this? we are not yet ready, but pay full price while we figure it out? this of course my most humble opinion

    Giada? i have no idea. she may be a great restaurateur, as long as she pays attention to every detail like all the other great restaurateurs i know do

  • ELV responds: Thanks for the comment, Matt, but I have to say you are both agreeing and disagreeing with me. The complete build outs are less common now….but even a joint like BLT Burger – built in ‘o9 at 7.5 mil – were completely paid for by the casino.

    You are right that the deals usually involve giving the “name” chef a percentage of the gross (2.5-5% are the numbers we’ve seen), and if the place is pulling in at least 1 mil/month (as each of these places are expected to do….at a minimum) then that’s a lot of lettuce for doing practically nothing.

    But if you don’t think real cash changed hands to get Ramsay and Giada here…then I have a bridge to sell you.

  • RESPONSE: Actually, there is a rather predictable cycle that the casinos go through, going back and forth every few years between leasing out spaces and doing management deals on spaces that the casinos build out themselves. Your generalizations are from the perspective of an outsider. I don’t disagree that the “celebrity” chef thing has gone too far, but I do think that your facts are incomplete and/or inaccurate.

  • How much did Caesar’s insure her boobs for? Just in case she gets them too close to a stove……….

  • Chefs receive top line typically, so the money is guaranteed.
    Bottom line is also in there for incentive for success.
    Up front money is nowhere near millions, except if the deal involves licensing or multiple outlets (Guys)

  • Location! Location! Her first mistake. The place has a lousy location for us local’s. Second, the crowd there wouldn’t know antipasti from antiCastro. Thirdly, she swallowed all the BS her advisor’s told her. She will cut ties once hear contract is up. We know that Robin Leach will write her a good review. After all, he said Brittiny can really sing live.

  • You are a hater Mr. John Curtas!!! This restaurant has created jobs in the Las Vegas area for the unemployed and created better opportunities for others as well!!! While you sit there and type up this article to try and deter business from this establishment that hasn’t even opened yet!!! Also, what’s wrong with the union cooks?? The union has way better benefits than half of the restaurants on the strip and has employees that are passionate about food!!! I hope she does well!!! So I’ll end this with a few sayings that I’m sure you’ve heard before: “Don’t knock it til you try it!!” & “If you got haters you’re doing something right!!”

  • Seriously, Michelle, do you think anybody there is gonna make a decent wage to live? The help will comprise of immigrants who know nothing about making food. They will dole out the slop to the vulnerable tourist.

  • You sir are the Robin Leach of food critics and much like “Mr. Exclusive”, you are a hack. Let’s not let details like FACTS get in the way of an article you hack. Actually writing a legitimate article would take away from your time leering and tweeting about the servers at restaurants you creeper!

  • Oh, my, Mr. Curtas, you seem to have gotten Culinary up in arms.

  • Facts or no facts, what is in the name anyway? Even if it was “her” restaurant, do you really think there would be kitchen pride and a waitstaff to match on Las Vegas Blvd? Of course not! Otherwise Mesa Grill’s food would actually taste like something Bobby Flay would prepare.

    Caesars committed to Giada’s brand because the public relates her name/image to a specific type of cuisine. Its a good business strategy and her legal team will protect her brand (she has a say).

    Since Caesars declined to answer you, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to wait (perhaps use the extra time to maybe get your thyroid checked – seriously and sincerely) then write an article after you actually tried the food?

    Lastly, it’s idiotic and un-American of you to suggest that since Giada was born into a successful family is a reason not to line up to try this restaurant. Her good business sense and extensive history with Wolfgang Puck alone is reason enough to try this spot.

  • John, you are right on! You got the balls to tell the truth. I could care less about Giada. People actually think she is gonna be doing the cooking. She did it all for the love of money, period! Let’s face it, she was afraid to go into a better casino space. No way, would she go up against another top notch restaurant. The crowd at the Cromwell will be hard to gauge for awhile. They have to pay her no matter what happens. She will be the talk among her fellow Chef’s. What was she thinking?

  • What is sad about this is that the location is so good (and the Strip views so compelling), you might have thought CZR could go with an established restaurateur and still come out with a winner.

  • John is totally correct on how that game is played. The issue is still the food. Corporately run or not, I had a fantastic meal at Gordon Ramsey’s Steak inside Caesars owned Paris Hotel and Casino. I also received a $250.00 dining gift certificate for Giada’s to use when it opens from Caesars. That tells you it’s a corporate run joint. I’m looking forward to trying DB at The Venetian and comparing any differences from it’s days at Wynncore.

  • The signature cocktail is the Blue Iris, who shot to fame on Howard Stern.

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