photos by Renee Shaffer & Lally Barnes

The Epicurean Affair, held on May 16 for the first time at the Red Rock Resort pools, is one of Las Vegas’ premiere culinary events, and a chance to sample dishes from dozens 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 talented chefs, managers and brewers in attendance. Following is what they had to say about the event and what they brought to the table.

Head Brewer Eddie Leal (Ellis Island Hotel, Casino & Brewery): “It is my first time at this event and from what I’ve seen so far it seems like a fabulous event. I mean with all the different restaurants here, the different styles of drinks people are pouring and the different wines and alcohol, luckily we’re able to be part of the beer aspect of this. Tonight I’m pouring our Belgium Blonde and the new Hoppy Pils, which is basically a mix of a Czech-style pilsner and American pilsner lager.”

Executive Sous Chef Brawnson Rattanavong (Tao at The Venetian): “I think it’s awesome —very beautiful, outdoors,  different types of people from all walks of life out here that get to taste our food. Tonight we brought Asian-style BBQ pork crispy bao bao bun with mushrooms, onions, garlic and chili soy sauce.”

Executive Production Chef Brett Blitz (Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan): “I haven’t been to this particular event before, but I’ve been to Red Rock and I love it. I think it’s great. Tonight I brought one of our menu items: tuna poke tacos with sushi grade tuna, our poke sauce, radish, micro-cilantro and fukaki.

Executive Chef Frank Cervantes (LAVO at The Palazzo): “I just moved here from New York about a year and a half ago, so I wasn’t here for the last one, but it’s great, very cool. Tonight we are serving our truffle gnocchi with mushroom ragu in a truffle cream sauce. 

General Manager Ian Delph (Boathouse Asian Eatery at Palace Station): “I’ve done these events in the past, but as a chef when I worked for Caesars Entertainment. I think this is a beautiful venue and love seeing it in Summerlin and like that a lot of locals are able to come. It’s always so relaxed, there’s so many great restaurants and it’s just great to be around such great chefs. We have two really popular dishes from our menu: hamachi jalapeno and poke bowl with tuna, salmon, tobiko, sesame soy dressing.

Executive Chef Steve Young (Edge Steakhouse at the Westgate): “I think this event is just as good as the ones in the past. I love coming here. It’s fantastic. I love Red Rock—it’s beautiful, gorgeous and great by the pool. Today we decided to do two of our huge sellers: beef tartar and spicy shrimp. And we’re doing a special through the end of the year, if you come down and buy an entrée, you get a free spicy shrimp on us. 

Palms Casino Assistant Executive Chef Daniel Mendez: “I think this event is great. The Red Rock pool’s always been a great local hangout for this demographic. We’ve got some of the best restaurants in Vegas here and are showing some of the best dishes in town. Great crowd, great vibe, great energy. I mean, you can’t beat it. I spent a lot of time in Scotch 80 Prime and am super proud of everything we’ve put together in the past year. Tonight we’re serving a Creekstone Farms Prime New York strip with our heart-stopping potato puree, roasted shishito pepper and aged balsamic vinegar. It’s actually called heart-stopping on the menu because there’s more butter than potato. More butter, more better.”

This small sampling doesn’t do justice to the 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.