Friends with Benefits: Steven Kuo of The STRAT
Steven Kuo knew only three words when he immigrated to the U.S.: Yes, no and hi. He was 18 years old when he landed in Hawaii from South Korea. Today, Kuo is the general manager of Top of the World at The STRAT. And not only is he running one of the city’s most famous spots, when he joined last year, he helped it become the highest-grossing restaurant in Las Vegas.
“There is opportunity in America—if you work your tail off,” he says. “And it takes commitment; you have to have commitment.” And Kuo has that. He eventually moved to Las Vegas in 1999 to pursue a degree from UNLV’s hospitality program. After graduation, he worked seemingly everywhere in the city, from The Mirage and Wynn to Caesars Palace and Aria. He’s even been the owner and chef of his own local Chinese restaurant (he learned cooking from working in his family’s restaurants in Korea and Hawaii). “Being in this industry, it’s in my blood, I guess,” Kuo says.
But after working all over the Strip, “One day I was like, ‘I’ve pretty much done all types of restaurants—casual, café, buffet, fine dining, Italian, Japanese, Chinese—I’ve never once worked at a steakhouse,’” he says. That’s when he applied at Top of the World. “It’s the first time in my career that I’ve had an office with a view. You can’t beat this view.”
As the general manager, Kuo says his greatest responsibilities are attending to his guests and supporting his team. He loves meeting new people that come to his restaurant; he’s even been witness to tons of marriage proposals. In regards to his team, he says that, as their manager, it’s important that he stays open-minded and adaptable, and that he always evolves to be the best manager he can be.
“It’s not just me, I’m grateful for my bosses and my team members,” he says. “I’m grateful to be here. … I’ve always known, if I put my mind to it, I can get anything done.”
Libation: Empress 75
Guests of Top of the World can delight in the restaurant’s new fall menu and new fall cocktails. One eye-catching, as well as delicious, new specialty cocktail is the Empress 75. “The cocktail is very refreshing and very bubbly,” says Kuo. “We’ve added many new cocktails for the fall season, and this one will surely be one of the more popular picks.” The cocktail is mixed with Empress 1908 gin and lemon juice, and then it’s topped off with champagne and garnished with an edible flower.
Benefit: To enjoy 107 SkyLounge, let the Top of the World reservation desk know and avoid the SkyPod admission.
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