The chefs of Westgate cater to every taste and style
Chef Steve Young: Robert Graham Richter jacket ($648), Ermenegido Zegna pants ($795), Stefano Ricci pocket square $210, Eton shirt $191, Tom Ford bow tie ($250), all available at Neiman Marcus in Fashion Show; Chef Bruno Morabito: Armani tuxedo ($1,895), Eton shirt $125, Tom Ford bow tie ($250), all available at Neiman Marcus in Fashion Show; Chef Aaron Losch: Three-piece tuxedo, available at Tuxedo Junction; Chef Masato Shiga: Tom Ford tuxedo jacket ($4,380), Theory trousers ($180), Brioni shirt ($375), Eton bow tie $125, all available at Neiman Marcus in Fashion Show
Westgate Las Vegas has been cultivating its culinary identity as of late. With a crack team of top chefs assembled, Westgate revised menus and created a new space to round out its restaurant lineup. From steaks to comfort food and Italian food to Asian fare, Westgate has it all covered by a dedicated crew that collectively possess a wide spectrum of experiences and expertise.
Aaron Losch, Director of Culinary Operations for Westgate Las Vegas
Aaron Losch, director of culinary operations for Westgate, doesn’t see the need to micromanage. “With all of our experience and knowledge, if we don’t utilize that to come up with the best ideas together, then we’re not using the team the way we should be,” he says. That team handles more than a dozen eateries, several of which are being “elevated” to enhance the property’s casual dining experience and help Westgate forge a new dining identity.
Losch, who started at Westgate as executive chef of Sid’s Café and was promoted to his current position in August, forged his dining identity in the Pacific Northwest. Cooking jobs that he held while studying to be an accountant led to a career, and a supervisor put him in touch with a Las Vegas contact. He wound up working for Luciano Pellegrini at Valentino inside The Venetian, at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, and with Michael Mina at MGM’s Nob Hill before going over to Wynn, where he worked as executive chef of the buffet and main kitchen. “I got to learn how to really organize stuff,” says Losch. “And with the caliber of chefs at Wynn, I learned a ton. It was amazing.”
The variety of experiences gave him what it takes to direct operations at Westgate. Losch recently oversaw menu revisions for Bar Sake, Rikki Tikki Sushi and Sid’s, and is looking at the buffet next. He draws on his own family’s experiences in dining and travel for inspiration. “There’re a lot of families here, so I have to look at what my family does and what my family enjoys, and see what of those experiences we can bring here,” he says.
Bruno Morabito, Chef de Cuisine at Sid's Cafe
Bruno Morabito is known for his comfort food skills, having been in charge of the kitchen at Giada De Laurentiis’ restaurant at The Cromwell in 2016. “There’s a lot of good comfort food on Sid’s (Cafe) menu, food that makes people happy,” says chef de cuisine Morabito. “You have meatloaf. You have salmon. You have steak and eggs. You can have Southern fried chicken with mashed potatoes. It’s a really family-style, comfort food restaurant. You’re going to come in and enjoy what you get.”
Morabito began cooking at home as a teenager in New York and attended culinary school in Ontario, but he says his career blossomed when he moved to Las Vegas in 2000. He worked in the kitchens of Lutece at The Venetian and Aureole at Mandalay Bay before becoming part of the opening crew at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon at The Venetian, where he started out as fish chef. He says his introduction of chicken and waffles to Bouchon’s brunch menu was an immediate hit, and was added to menus at all of Keller’s Bouchon locations.
He went to Giada before coming to Sid’s Cafe, which just introduced revised breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night menus. He’ll be walking the dining room to see how customers take to the new Daydreamer avocado toast with jalapeño bacon and heirloom tomatoes. “I like that, because you can connect with people,” he says of chatting with guests about their meals and experiences. “By creating memories through food, you foster all these different relationships that people relish, and they always have memories of.”
Steve Young, Executive Chef of Edge Steakhouse
For Steve Young, executive chef at Westgate’s Edge Steakhouse, there’s one thing a chef must have to be successful: “You have to have technique first,” he says. “If you don’t have the technique, your dish will never be good. Whatever ingredient you use or whatever season it is, you have to have solid technique.”
The New Jersey native began learning technique as a teenager, encouraged to cook Italian food by his mother and grandmother. Kitchen work then became a way to make extra cash or golf for free at the country club where the cooks showed him the ropes. Young trained at Manhattan’s Art Institute and worked at numerous restaurants until a recommendation led to positions at both L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand. He moved to The Cosmopolitan when that hotel opened in 2010, then to Edge when 3000 Paradise Road became Westgate Las Vegas (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton).
“I came in here, did all the training, the cooks, built the kitchen from scratch,” says Young. “It was a large amount of work, probably the hardest opening for just a restaurant that I’ve ever been part of. Rearranging the kitchen. Designing the menu.” Young cites the lamb and sunchoke ravioli as two of his menu’s highlights, with the latter being his choice to make when a delegation of Westgate chefs were invited to prepare dinner for James Beard Foundation members in New York on Valentine’s Day earlier this year. The following month Young was named Best New Chef/Rising Star at the 2017 Silver State Awards.
Masato Shiga, Chef de cuisine of Bar Sake & Robata Grill/Benihana/Rikki Tikki Sushi/Silk Road Asian Bistro
Masato Shiga has a calming presence despite all he has on his plate, overseeing more square footage than any other Westgate chef. His four restaurants are housed within a labyrinth-like, two-story complex within Westgate’s restaurant district that offers multiple environments for enjoying Asian fare. It’s a daunting prospect for any chef, but Shiga’s previous experiences prepared him for the role.
“I opened Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. That’s big,” he says. “It’s still challenging that this is four restaurants in one place, and another one’s coming, so there’s going to be five.” He’s referring to the oyster bar that will soon be opening next to Silk Road, the restaurant that combines Japanese ramen noodle, Chinese Rrice noodle and Vietnamese pho on its menu. Shiga himself specializes in robata-style cuisine, working at the grill at Bar Sake when he’s in cooking mode. “Robata is all the items on a skewer,” he says. “It started out as Japanese fast food a long, long time ago, but now there’s so many variations, like high-end robata.”
The choices are rounded out by Benihana’s teppan grill menu and Rikki Tikki Sushi, where guests can dine with the ambience of cascading water nearby. Ironically, Shiga launched his career by cooking American breakfasts in Japan. He studied Japanese, Chinese and French food before migrating to Kansas City, then worked at The Mirage, Bacchanal Buffet and Nobu at Caesars Palace. To Westgate guests’ good fortune, he now presents Far Eastern cuisines to visitors from around the globe from his Las Vegas epicurean headquarters.