The Las Vegas megaresort boom that began in the 1990s and continues today has benefited from and encouraged the arrival of celebrity chefs operating fine-dining eateries. Each new resort competes for brand-name chefs to move west and set up shop in hotel-casinos to create fine dining experiences for patrons.
The first was Wolfgang Puck, who opened Spago in 1994 in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Puck now operates five Las Vegas eateries, four located inside resorts. Before he became a household name with a TV cooking show, Emeril Lagasse opened Emeril's New Orleans Seafood House at the MGM Grand. The Bellagio brought in Julian Serrano to run Picasso, where more than $60 million worth of Picasso originals line the walls, combining fine art and fine dining. Just steps away is Prime steakhouse, manned by Jean-George Vongerichten, along with Todd English's Mediterranean-styled Olives and a Las Vegas version of New York's famed Le Cirque.
Bradley Ogden arrived with a self-named offshoot of his famed eatery at Caesars Palace, right next to the Colosseum showroom, while Chicago's Charlie Palmer found new success with Aureole at Mandalay Bay, featuring a four-story wine tower stocked with thousands of vintage wines.
New Orleans' Brennan Family opened a second version of Commander's Palace at the Aladdin in late 2000 and local Andre Rochat now has gourmet eateries tucked inside the the Palms and Monte Carlo resorts. The list of celebrity chefs finding success in the desert continues to grow alongside once frowned-upon buffets that now serve quality food, making Las Vegas a culinary oasis geared both to high-rollers and visiting "foodies" alike.
At least one new restaurant opens each week in Las Vegas, be it a brand name operation or an independent, and the thriving movement shows no sign of slowing down. There's now something for every taste and budget.
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