After a period of stagnancy, Las Vegas’s dining scene is ready to go on a hot streak.
Mina Group partner Adam Sobel and Wynn executive chef Christopher Lee swung by Robb Report’s House of Robb Las Vegas to talk with editor in chief Paul Croughton about the state of fine dining on Wednesday afternoon. Both men agreed that as the culinary world heads for another period of transition, Las Vegas is the place to be for diners and chefs alike.
“Everything is cyclical,” Sobel said. “We’re in the midst of a more casual kind of dining experience and people are starting to yearn for more of a fine dining experience.”
With tastes changing, Las Vegas is well-positioned for the new moment. That’s because the city of the celebrity chefs is drawing young, ambitious talent that would have looked to other cities in years past. The same goes for the city’s bars, which, after a period of copying what was going on elsewhere, are starting to do their own thing again.
“Now, we are also attracting great young talent, which is the next building block for Las Vegas,” Lee said. “I think you’re going see a lot of emerging chefs coming here throughout the different cities. I think we’re gonna have some homegrown chefs here. We have one ourselves, Sarah Thompson. She’s the chef of Casa Playa.”
Opportunity and resources are a big part of the reason why up-and-coming chefs are flocking to Las Vegas right now. Just as much of a factor, though, is the fact that it’s the increasingly rare city that culinary professionals, both young and old, can afford to live well in. That’s a big part of why Mina Group recently relocated its main offices here from San Francisco.
“I really believe it’s the last city in America where the American Dream truly lives,” Sobel said. “You can come here with nothing and become a busboy and work your way up to become a casino executive. I’ve seen it.”
That said, staffing a new restaurant in Las Vegas, especially one based out of a hotel or resort, isn’t without it’s difficulties. “I think the challenge is that when you open a restaurant, you might need 100 people, when you open a hotel, you need like 10,000 people” Lee said. There’s also the matter of someone trying to poach staff every time a new spot opens, something that happens every week.
Sobel and Lee have both pushed their chips in on Las Vegas, but they still have things in the works elsewhere. Mina Group will open its first New York restaurant, Bourbon Steak, this coming February. There will also be two openings in Los Angeles (one, Sweet July, is a partnership with Ayesha Curry), one in San Francisco and another in Washington, D.C. The Wynn, meanwhile, is building a new resort on Al Marjan island outside of Dubai, which will feature all the restaurants and bars people expect from the brand.