The Epicurean Affair, held at The Palazzo Pools on May 25, is one of Las Vegas’ premiere culinary events, and a chance to sample the best from more than 70 of the finest establishments (both on and off the Strip) Las Vegas has to offer. Here’s to eating and drinking to a good cause, as this yearly event raises funds for scholarships for students interested in culinary careers provided by the Nevada Restaurant Association (NvRA) and its partners, along with the nationwide ProStart program, a national high school culinary skill and restaurant management program.
Throughout the evening I spoke with some of the prominent executive chefs in attendance. Following is what they had to say about the event and what they brought to the table.
Chef Timon Balloo (SUGARCANE Raw Bar Grill and host of this year’s Epicurean Affair): “It’s my first year at Epicurean and I’m honored to be here hosting it. As host I helped the team curate the selection of restaurants, worked with the media on branding and helped market and publicize the event like the TV show I appeared on this morning on The CW. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this festivity and am really excited that proceeds go to the Nevada scholarship fund and helping kids start their career in culinary arts, which is right up my alley. I’m serving one of my favorite dishes from the restaurant: bluefin tuna tartare with avocado cream and yuzu kosho. I’m super honored to have my restaurant (which opened earlier this year) here, because the caliber of chefs and the Venetian brand is hands down one of the best in the world.”
Chef Rick Moonen (RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room): “We’re big supporters of the NvRA. This is such a great event and it’s colossal in size, which makes it a lot of fun for people that attend and it’s all about hospitality. I did a buffalo fish, which is a very choice fish from the Tennessee River that we marinate in yuzu, and put on a steamed bao bun with some anti-inflammatory slaw and spicy mayonnaise.
Chef Sean McClain (Sage): “Super excited to be here; this is Sage’s first time at Epicurean. We are serving a fresh snow crab salad with an avocado tomatillo gazpacho and a jalapeno vinaigrette.”
Chef Scott Pajak (Lagasse’s Stadium): “This is a great event to see a lot of great restaurants that are in our city and a chance to see people you know and say hi. This is my 6th year coming and my first day working at Lagasse’s Stadium was working this event. Today we’re serving our raw ahi tuna poke, which is one of our signature appetizers, made with tuna poke ponzu, avacodo, a little Chinese mustard and wasabi sesame seeds.”
Chef Steve Young (Edge Steakhouse): “This is my first time here. I think it’s great to be in the same place as all these great chefs. We’ve got our baby beet salad with toasted pistachio and burrata cheese. We like to do our beets three ways: we roast them, slice them raw and puree the rest.”
Chef Olivier Dubreuil (Executive Chef of The Venetian/Palazzo): “The event has been held here since 2010 and I think this is a great event for everyone to come in and experience, enjoy a great evening and support a great cause. Tonight Chef (SUSHISAMBA Executive Chef Joel Versola) is serving miso salmon with tomato salad and jalapeno dressing.”
While by no means a scientific survey, I asked my entourage of four to select offerings that had the wow factor. The results were: pucini mushroom ravioli in champagne truffle cream from Il Munino; dry-aged slider with house pickles, tomato jam and cheese from Beauty & Essex; Prime rib with vegetable succotash from the soon-to-open Robert Irvine’s Public House; eggplant parmesan with layers upon layers of eggplant, sauce, Pecorino Romano, mozzarella and Italian parsley from Carmine’s; panna cotta olive oil porketta from Buddy V’s; prickly pear vodka popsicle from STK; and award-winning whisky from local H&C Distilling Co., which recently won two Double Gold medals for its Smoke Wagon Uncut Unfiltered Straight Bourbon Whiskey and their Smoke Wagon Private Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey at the prestigious 2017 World Spirit Awards.
This small sampling doesn’t do justice to myriad stellar bites and sips we enjoyed and our only regret was getting too full to indulge further. If you missed attending this year’s Epicurean Affair, do yourself a favor and make sure that never happens again.