Imagine presenting a gourmet meal for 1,500 of your best friends, prepared by some of the top celebrity chefs in the world and paired with world-class wines selected by Master Sommeliers. What I’ve just described is the Power of Love® gala. Held on April 27 at the MGM Grand Garden, this year was the 21st rendition of this celebration of life that was created to raise money for Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s programs and services.
The annual event is arguably the most respected and revered extravaganza taking place in Las Vegas each year. To pull such a feat off, year after year, quite a bit of planning and resources are required. Here we take a look at this year’s event and the extraordinary efforts by the food and beverage team and what takes place behind the scenes.
The World Class Wine
Great cuisine should be accompanied by outstanding wine and cocktails and for this year’s event the ultimate in fine libations were served. “The Power of Love® gala is a one-of-a-kind experience with an exquisite menu that is exclusive to the event, so when pairing wine we considered the bold flavors that are signature to both Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina. To complement each course, our team of Master Sommeliers chose four selections of wine that would enhance the flavors found in each dish without overpowering the palate,” said Joseph Phillips, Master Sommelier and Director of Wine Education at Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Nevada. “For the first course, we selected Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé Champagne and the 2014 Inception Chardonnay from Santa Barbara to harmonize with the fresh flavors of the spring mezze. For the steak and braised beef short rib, we paired the 2014 Holdredge Pinot Noir ‘Selection Massale’ from the Russian River Valley and the 2012 Mazzei ‘Philip,’ a Cabernet Sauvignon from Tuscany, to suit the rich flavors of the dish.”
Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon Brut, Champagne, France, 2004
Courtesy of: Moët Hennessy USA
Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California, 2015
Courtesy of: Rhonda and Don Carano
Landmark Overlook Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, 2014
Courtesy of: Justin Winery
Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California, 2013
Courtesy of: Constellation Brands
Perrier-Jouët Brut, Blason Rosé, Champagne, France, NV
Courtesy of: Pernod Ricard USA
Inception Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, California, 2014
Courtesy of: Jonathan Hirsh
Holdredge Selection “Massale” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, 2014
Courtesy of: John Holdredge
Mazzei “Philip” Rosso Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy, 2012
Courtesy of: Palm Bay International
Dessert Cocktail—Some Like It Hot—A slightly spicy, silky-smooth frozen blend of Patrón XO Cafe Incendio and Hennessy Black with flavors of almond and coconut
Courtesy of: Patrón Spirits and Moët Hennessy USA
The One-of-a-Kind Dinner Crafted byCelebrity Chefs Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina
Continuing its 20-year history, the Power of Love® gala showcased a dinner prepared by superstar chefs Wolfgang Puck (Chef Puck has participated in every gala since its inception) and Michael Mina. Chef Mina was quite gracious to spend some time with journalists just a mere hour before dinner service would begin. In this interview Chef Mina provides us with many insights to both what preparation is involved, but also why he chooses to participate in this worthy event each year.
How did you first become involved in Power of Love® and what motivated you to become an intricate part of this worthy event?
I became involved in it through Larry Ruvo. He first started talking to us about what his mission was and what he wanted to accomplish, and when you know Larry, you know if he sets out to accomplish something, he’s going to accomplish it. And then you start to understand how big of an issue it is and how it affects so many people. My wife’s grandmother was going through Alzheimer’s at about the same time I became involved and just seeing how it affected her made me realize that anything that can be done to improve their life when they get to that stage is something we should all be aware of.
I love the fact that he wants the chefs to be involved in this and from day one it’s been about this amazing community that we have here in Las Vegas and how they support causes that are important, and obviously not just here, but all over the world, so I’m just blessed to be part of it.
What are you preparing for this year’s menu and what inspired you to make it?
My dish is very true to my heart this year because my partner in all my restaurants is Andre Agassi, who’s being honored this year, so I have a little insight on what Andre loves to cook and what he loves to eat. Andre is a fanatic about cooking steak. When I first met him and got to know him, he invited me over to his house for dinner; he put tape around the kitchen and wouldn’t even let me enter the kitchen. He said, “I’m cooking you steak and I want your honest opinion about it.” So we’ve always had this running joke about cooking meat, and tonight I’m doing an Australian wagyu in two preparations: a braised short rib and a roasted poivre of the beef with a bit of tomato jam and caramelized onion tartare. I just went and saw some of the canapes they are serving from Chef (Joël) Robuchon’s L’Atelier and they are amazing. When you walk through this event and see the level of detail for this many people, it’s very impressive. I’ve done a lot of events and have rarely seen any at this level, so it’s great.
Can you give us an idea of the enormity of the ingredients you had to procure and how much you needed to make the wagyu dishes?
The dinner is for 1,500 people so you always have to prep a little extra. We started with about 1,900 pounds of wagyu beef and then it was butchered down and you get about a 50% yield out of it. We prep for about 1,600 people just to be on the safe side.
When did the preparation for tonight’s dinner begin and where did it take place?
Four months ago we started planning the menu and sourcing all of the product, conceptualizing and thinking about how we were going to orchestrate it and be able to execute it. So hopefully it works. For preparing the dinner we started three days ago with serious prep, making the braising liquid and things of that nature. We did some of the prep off property and some here.
How many participate in the execution of the dinner and where do they come from?
In the kitchen alone, we have over 300 people that have taken part in this. They are a combination of this amazing staff here at MGM Grand, and they are great because they are so used to hosting events like this; chefs like myself, and there’s not that many times that we are working an event for 1,500 people at a plated dinner, so we rely on the team here; and we also brought in a big part of our team as well, bringing all of our head chefs and sous chefs from all of our restaurants here in Las Vegas.
How do you like working with Wolfgang Puck?
I love working with Wolfgang (chuckles)! Wolfgang Puck has been an inspiration to me since I started cooking school and he was one of the first chefs that I really absolutely idolized. The thing that I respect the most about Chef Wolfgang is his food, first and foremost, but also that he really gets it and understands the hospitality side of what we do and I think nobody has done that better than him. No matter what, he’s always had that passion for people, and that comes through in the food and I think it’ll come through tonight.
Had you participated in Power of Love® before this year?
Yes, I participate every year in some shape or form, whether it’s an entrée item, an auction item or canapes, but the last time I did a full course of the dinner was really special; it was for Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday (in 2012).
Anything you’d like to add?
Just that I’m very blessed to be here and very excited to see Bon Jovi.
One aspect of this tremendous yearly event is the acknowledgement of members of the community whose actions show testament to the “power of love.”
This year’s Gala Honoree was Ronald O. Perelman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MacAndrews & Forbes Incorporated; the Community Leadership Award Recipient was professional tennis superstar and Las Vegas local, Andre Agassi; and this year a new award was instituted to honor the helping of someone in need: The Caregiver Award, with the first recipient being Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfired & Roy, for his unwavering support of his partner Roy Horn.
Highlights from the night included a surprise $1 million donation from Community Achievement Award recipient and tennis super star, Andre Agassi and wife Stefanie Graf. When presenting the donation, Agassi said, “I spent a lot of years realizing my dreams and goals. It’s now time for me to help Larry (Ruvo) make his dreams my goals, too.”
World-renowned rock star Jon Bon Jovi kicked off the night with a performance of legendary hits “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer.” GRAMMY-Award winning artist Jennifer Hudson surprised the crowd and stepped in for Gwen Stefani who was unable to attend due to doctor’s orders. Hudson brought down the house with high-energy performances of “Hallelujah,” “Remember Me” and a Whitney Houston mash-up of “I’m Every Woman” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Celebrity supporters who also attended the event included Steve Schirripa, Kenneth “Baby Face” Edmonds, Larry King and John Paul DeJoria.
Once again Robin Leach was the “voice of Power of Love®” as he once again served as the MC of the proceedings. Other notables in attendance included two longtime supporters of Power of Love®: philanthropist John Paul Dejoria, founder/owner of The Patron Spirits Company; and famed film director and producer Brett Ratner, partner of Hilhaven Lodge Whiskey.
In addition to enjoying the finest cuisine, wine and spirits, guests bid on one-of-a-kind experiences during the event’s signature live and silent auction. Items auctioned included a week-long vacation sailing off the coast of Australia aboard the ultra-luxurious MY Texas super yacht, a private meet and greet with GRAMMY Award-winning songstress Lady Gaga, a once-in-a-lifetime Italian vacation complete with an exclusive event at the world famous Roman Coliseum headlined by Andrea Bocelli, and a trip to the Kentucky Derby with Bruce Zoldan, owner of Phantom Fireworks and part owner of 2011 Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom.
For a gallery of more pictures from this year’s event and for more info on Keep Memory Alive, visit www.keepmemoryalive.org.