Eating Las Vegas

John Curtas is …

A few words with the Chef of the (20th) Century-Joel Robuchon

There are five Michelin 3-Star restaurants in America. Joel Robuchon in the MGM Grand Hotel is one of them. Unlike many of his colleagues, JR is in his restaurant and at the stoves just about every third month in Las Vegas. We sat down (after begging off 16 courses and settling for a 12 course meal there recently) to ask The Chef of the 20th Century (as proclaimed by Gault-Millau in 1996), about his cuisine and restaurants in the era of the restaurant/food blogger.

Click here to hear my review of Joel Robuchon on KNPR.

Click here to read my review of Joel Robuchon for John Mariani.

JC: What is your opinion of food/restaurant bloggers and the impact they have on the dining-out public?

JR: They can be helpful and they can be dangerous. Dangerous because anyone can write anything, even if they have no training or experience and don’t make any sense. Genuine gastronomic critics bring a lot of experience to the table and you must respect that, but too often the internet can be used as a revenge tool by people who have something against the chef or the restaurant. But the public doesn’t know when a “review” is being used as a way to ambush a restaurant. Too many restaurant “critics” these days are like me when I’m criticizing a soccer coach; I might have my opinion, but I don’t know that much.

JC: How would you advise someone to get a proper gourmet education in this era of very expensive restaurants (like his) and various cooking/restaurant styles?

JR: You must go out a lot. Try different concepts. Form a fine dining club. Try get a true understanding of what is good and bad cooking. Follow a gastronomic critic whose tastes you understand and learn from them. Unfortunately, people don’t take the time these days to become a true gourmand.

JC: What advice would you give a young chef (or a young restaurant customer) about what to strive for in good cooking and good eating?

JR: Young people/children have an inherent honesty and respect for what is good in food. But as they get older, from 18-35 yrs. old, they tend to over think things…which is the most dangerous thing you can do as a chef. Young chefs try too hard to impress and constantly want their food to be exciting, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. Too often they get lost in the method and end up overcomplicating things. Doing a simple thing well and perfectly, is what great cooking is all about.

JC: Name me a restaurant that I’ve never heard of that I absolutely must go to?

JR: Restaurante Nou Manolin in Alicante, Spain, in Valencia. A tapas/small plates/seafood restaurant with amazing Mediterranean seafood and langoustines….

PAYARD Perfection

Payard Bistro and Patisserie

Caesars Palace


The most common questions I get asked about this second job of mine as a world famous restaurant critic are: how does one become a restaurant critic? How many times a week do you eat out? And finally: why aren’t you the size of sperm whale? Well the answers are: It’s a long story, 10 times a week, and I have the metabolism of a hummingbird. I’m hardly svelte, but I like to say I’m not as fat as I could be nor as thin as I should be, and one of the ways I keep from looking like a building with feet is by avoiding (or at least minimizing) my intake of sweets, pastries, cakes and desserts. And that was pretty easy for me, until Francois Payard came to town.

Click here to listen to my current review of Payard Patisserie and Bistro.

Because one of the first things The Food Gal and I do whenever we travel to New York, is to hop a cab to Lexington Avenue on the upper East Side, and immediately tuck ourselves into a tiny table at Payard’s for a generous sampling of superlative pastries. We’ve done this for years, because for years it’s pretty well been acknowledged that Payard is the best pastry chef in America. And as long as he stayed in New York, I could indulge myself with his croissants, pain du chocolat, madeleines, financiers, macaroons or whatever tasty cakes struck my fancy. …because I was only there for a few days and could go nuts without serious waistline consequences. The Food Gal of course never has this problem, because she’s never hungry for the stuff like I am, preferring instead to pick off my plate….which just means that I have to order twice as much.

Unfortunately, for the past 8 months or so, I’ve become vexed, tortured, tempted and tormented, ever since Payard diabolically moved into Caesars Palace and brought all of his French delicacies with him. He even went so far as to hire Gregory Gorreau, the immensely talented pastry chef from MIX, to be his Executive Chef, to further plague and confound my best laid dietary plans.

WORST of all, they decided to open a charming bistro along side their pastry shop….that provokes me morning, noon and night with the best omelette in town, the best quiche in town, the best croque monsieur in town, and a chocolate nutella banana crepe that will make you weep. They also do a pretty spectacular hamburger, and the eggs benedict are nothing to shake a baguette at either. And when you’re done swooning over all of those, there are those pastries and chocolates in the shop next door, calling to you like a siren song of forbidden delights.

Lash me to the mast please! It’s just not right I tell you!…..The best breakfast in town, a stunning lunch and dinner, and the best sweets and baked goods on this side of the Atlantic….something needs to be done about that perfidious Payard, and his henchman Gorreau….because they constantly remind me that I can resist anything except temptation.

KLAS TV CBS Channel 8 Restaurant of the Week Goes Global!

They said it couldn’t be done food fans….But after nine months on the air locally, our Restaurant of the Week segment, seen every Friday morning on the KLAS TV morning news, is now available for worldwideweb viewing. See for yourself why, after thirteen years on KNPR, it was often said that I have a face made for radio!

Many thanks to Denise Valdez, Natalie Cullen, Caroline Bleakley, and uber-webmaster Anthony Curtas for making this event possible. No longer will some of you be forced out of bed at an un-godly hour just to get your weekly dose of The Food Man.

John’s Tweets

John at Work Restaurant reviews, quips, picks and pans-with some seriously salivating history-from the man who eats his way through Sin City every day.
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