Photo credit: Al Powers

As William DeMarco was growing up, it was his sister who was supposed to be a chef. But as life happens, it was DeMarco who ended up going to culinary school and going on to a career in the kitchen. 

Now as the corporate executive chef of Morton Group, DeMarco leads the culinary programs at a variety of Las Vegas establishments, including La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway, La Comida, CRUSH, MB Steak and
Greek Sneek. 

When did you know you were destined to be a chef? 

I dabbled in the family pizzeria when I was younger, and in 11th grade, I was going to college fairs and decided I should just keep cooking. I’d watch this Emeril guy, when ‘Bam!’ was getting big, and seemed to show if you’re good at it you can make money. That was my mentality, not knowing your weekends, holidays are gone.

So once it was decided on as a career, where’d you go?

I was born and raised on Long Island, and didn’t want to go to the Culinary Institute of America. I wanted to get out of New York, so I went down to the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, which was six months old at the time. I reached out to them, but I was not ready once high school was over and wanted to make some money, but they held onto the spot for me.

How’d you get to Las Vegas?

I was coming out on vacation, and helped an old boss, Sam DeMarco (no relation), and would fly back and forth and help out at his restaurants. That got my feet in the door, meeting people, and I decided it’d be good to live here for good. So I was working at The River Café in Brooklyn, and it was funny, I told the chef there I’d never leave, but Vegas kept sticking in my head; I don’t want to wake up and regret it because this town seems like it was the culinary mecca and only growing. That was about 15 years ago, as I was seeing it booming for culinary and seeing all these restaurants popping up. I went back to New York to work with Charlie Palmer and that got me back out here with Aureole, before opening up the buffet at Wynn. Once I came out, Grant MacPherson offered me a job at Bellagio, right before the Wynn opened. 

What are the culinary differences between NYC and Vegas?

Moving out here, there were so many others things, really. The beautiful weather is one, the cost of living, the hotels with these big massive restaurants being built and the availability of ingredients. The craziness of money is no object in this town; the expenses are a lot more unlimited because you have the backing of the hotel and the ability to get ingredients. Like white truffles in New York are rare, now (here) it’s no big deal, dropping thousands of dollars on them. But mainly just a difference in living and tastes and getting away from the weather and (higher) cost of living. But these hotels are just beautiful and massive and constantly busy. That was all intriguing. 

How do you balance the styles of Morton restaurants? 

Through the hotel I had the opportunity to meet Michael Morton, who said, ‘You’re my guy.’ We opened up La Cave nine years ago, and little by little we’re growing it. We opened up La Comida, then CRUSH, then MB Steak and now Greek Sneek. It does get tricky balancing from place to place, but we have great chefs that help me out and I never have to worry about a place. These guys are awesome and help me. La Cave is where I spend my mornings. At dinner, I’m bouncing between MB, Greek and Crush.

The newest one, Greek Sneek, what was the idea with that?

Surprisingly in this town, there are not many Greek spots on the Strip. Some very high-end ones with Milos and Costa di Mare at Wynn, but in the MGM, Greek just popped off between me and Micheal [Morton]. It’s great food, easily approachable, seems like everyone loves and relates to and it’s not too expensive. It was the perfect concept to me. 

What’s coming down the pipeline?

Hard Rock is closing after Super Bowl Sunday and becoming Virgin Hotel. It’ll reopen in November and MB Steak is staying, with renovations to make it bigger. We’re excited about that. But we’re also looking at doing some stuff outside of Vegas, looking into Chicago, San Francisco. Michael loves New York. But we’re just focusing on what we have right now, reopening MB Steak and looking at opportunities outside of Las Vegas.