Thomas Keller keeps reinventing himself in Las Vegas
By Susan Stapleton
Somehow, by whisking up an elevator in the Venezia Tower at the rear of The Venetian, you suddenly leave Venice and enter Paris. This is Thomas Keller’s world of Bouchon, his insanely famous French bistro. Inside is a soaring interior designed by Adam Tihany decked out in mosaic tiles on the floor, a pewter bar, antique lighting and hand-painted murals by the French artist Paulin Paris decking the walls. Outside you’ll find patio dining overlooking a pool.
On the menu are dishes Keller discovered when he moved to France in 1983, where he learned French cooking at the hands of Michelin-starred chefs such as Guy Savoy and at such celebrated restaurants as Taillevent.
Keller returned to his Bouchon in Las Vegas in August for the seasonal change in the menu and, at the same time, brought together his chefs from each Bouchon in Beverly Hills, New York City and Yountville, Calif., also home to The French Laundry, his seminal restaurant that truly landed him on the culinary map. The visiting chefs tested new dishes, such as foie gras poêlé and rôti de boeuf à la poêlé, that will compete with the stalwarts of roast chicken, steak frites, croque madame, pot de crème, lemon tart and a legendary raw bar, with fresh oysters, clams, mussels, half a lobster and shrimp that will make you think you’re sitting beside the Seine.
This leadership conference was designed to help the chefs make decisions on which techniques to use to make dishes and how to present the dish. A photographer is on hand to capture the final look so that it can be repeated at the four Bouchon locations. “We’re not trying to reinterpret the classics,” Keller says. Instead he asked each of the 14 chefs on hand to come up with their own composition based on historic bistros. A day of five waves of tastings shaped the final fall menu.
Keller’s work in Las Vegas certainly isn’t complete. Bouchon opened in 2004, along with a Bouchon Bakery near The Venetian Theater, soon to be home to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul residency. By Thanksgiving, he’ll open a second Bouchon Bakery, this time on the Las Vegas Strip near the bridge leading to The Mirage. The 540-square-foot bakery will be home to his French classics as well as reinventions of American favorites such as Nutter Butters and Ho Hos. On the second floor will be a gelato stand.
For those ambitious enough to think they can bake like Keller, his fifth cookbook comes out on Oct. 23. Simply titled Bouchon Bakery, the cookbook features recipes such as Pecan Cookies for My Mom (she managed the first restaurant where Keller worked in Palm Beach, Fla.), a take on the Keebler pecan Sandies that he viewed as an adult cookie when he was a child, and TKOs, his version of Oreo cookies. Keller plans to return to Las Vegas, Nov. 26-28, to christen his newest bakery and sign copies of his new cookbook.