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F1 Las Vegas Was the Ultimate Celebrity Chef Dining Week
F1 Las Vegas Was the Ultimate Celebrity Chef Dining Week

For globetrotting star chefs, including many hall-of-famers in Observer’s Nightlife and Dining power list, the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix was an unprecedented week of over-the-top events. “We’ll do catering for 100,000 people this weekend,” Wolfgang Puck, who also cooked at his Cut steakhouse inside the Venetian on Thursday, told Observer on Friday, ahead of the race on Saturday, November 19. “This is probably the largest buildout and the biggest event team we’ve ever had,” said Puck’s son, Byron, who sat with his father as they proudly showed Observer a photo of an Aston Martin car with a Wolfgang Puck logo on it. “In life, certain things are priceless,” said hall-of-famer Puck, marveling at how far he’s taken his name. Subscribe to Observer’s Lifestyle Newsletter Other A-list chefs, including Wakuda’s Tetsuya Wakuda, Bouchon’s Thomas Keller and HaSalon’s Eyal Shani, also held court at their Venetian restaurants during F1 week. Wakuda, with an impish smile, arrived at our table at his restaurant and shaved an extremely generous amount of white truffle over Hokkaido scallops. One thing that made this week special, he said, was the fact he’s known both Keller and Puck for two decades. Keller popped by Wakuda two nights in a row before going to the Venetian’s Paddock Club suite for the race on Saturday. And Wakuda and Puck recently collaborated on a lunch at Wakuda Singapore inside Marina Bay Sands during September’s Singapore Formula One week. “F1 is always a big celebration all week,” said Wakuda, who went to the Venetian’s F1 viewing platform on Friday. Shani, who was repping his counter-service Miznon restaurant that night, personally served Wakuda and other VIPs his nicely spicy hummus with melting chickpeas. The backdrop at the viewing platform was, of course, F1 cars zooming by during a practice session. During a one-on-one lunch of dumplings and noodles Observer had with José Andrés at his China Poblano inside the Cosmopolitan on Friday afternoon, the acclaimed chef took out his phone and played a video from a delayed F1 practice session that ended up starting at 2:30 a.m. “It’s 3 in the morning, and here are the cars,” Andrés said, and then pointed to the Cosmopolitan overlooking the track. “There’s the logo of my restaurant [Jaleo] as the cars are going. It says tapas and sangria. And there’s Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz passing by. That’s fucking cool.” Andrés was referring to Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr., who hit a loose drain cover during an earlier practice session. That incident is what led to the delay. Coincidentally, Andrés interviewed the F1 driver’s father, rally driver Carlos Sainz Sr., for his Longer Tables podcast at Jaleo on Friday afternoon. David Chang was also at the Cosmopolitan, where he has an outpost of Momofuku, during the weekend. “F1 is a big thing, particularly for people who have restaurants in casinos,” Chang told Observer. “This is definitely the most important week Vegas has ever had.” Given all the top-tier chefs in Las Vegas during the week, many notable food-loving entrepreneurs and influencers also came to F1. On Friday, inKind cofounder Johann Moonesinghe grabbed tiramisu donuts at pastry chef Keris Kuwana’s excellent new Donutique at the Venetian. Then Moonesinghe headed to Wakuda, where he and Dorsia cofounder Joshua Stern enjoyed a quick and luxurious snack of toro hand rolls at the sushi counter (which 50 Eggs Hospitality chief operating officer Yavuz Pehlivanlar opened up just for these power players this evening). Moonesinghe and inKind have funded more than 1,000 restaurants, including 50 Eggs Venetian spot Chica. Stern was at the Venetian for the Las Vegas launch of his Dorsia app; it’s a members-only platform that gives customers access to coveted reservations at high-profile restaurants. Dorsia, which offers seats that come with a required minimum spend, has teamed up with Tao Group Hospitality for tables at restaurants including Lavo (steps from Wakuda at the Venetian’s Palazzo tower) and Hakkasan. After we had lunch with Andrés at China Poblano, we spotted serial entrepreneur Ben Leventhal (Eater, Resy and the new Blackbird) walking around the Cosmopolitan. Then late that night at Resorts World Las Vegas, where CMO Ronn Nicolli hosted a dinner with Zouk bosses Hui Lim and Andrew Li at chef Ray Garcia’s Viva, we saw FoodGod Jonathan Cheban strolling the casino floor. Clearly, Las Vegas and the hospitality industry overall are back. “Obviously, it’s a big moment for Vegas,” said Andrés, who has plans to expand his Las Vegas lineup with both Zaytinya at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and a seafood restaurant at The Shops at Crystals debuting in 2024. “I think it’s the right moment. And this is a race in the middle of a city, and there probably is not a better city in the world. Forget Monaco. This is the best urban race in the world, period. You cannot beat it.” Andrés sees F1 as a preview of the madness Las Vegas will experience when the Super Bowl happens here in February. Meanwhile, one forthcoming restaurant that should benefit from the Super Bowl LVIII attendance is Puck’s Caramá, a new concept that’s slated to open in January at the former Lupo space inside Mandalay Bay. “It’s great to see the city moving forward and creating new things all the time,” Puck said. “There’s so much tourism, and the hotels are so big. And people have to eat.” Las Vegas really never stops. So after hosting F1 events for NetJets at Giada inside the Cromwell, Giada De Laurentiis exuberantly visited every table to chat, hug and pose for photos with guests during a morning-after Sunday brunch at her trackside restaurant. As fans devoured rejuvenating chia seed yogurt parfaits and indulged in lobster benedict and truffle-topped pesto pasta, De Laurentiis talked to Observer about how Las Vegas has raised the stakes for entertainment. “The city is constantly changing, especially after Covid,” she said. “I think we’re seeing a completely different appreciation for this kind of experience. I think people really see Vegas now in a different light. They come here fully invested in having an unbelievable time.” So as she gets ready for her Las Vegas restaurant’s 10-year anniversary in 2024, De Laurentiis is thinking about how to create “immersive experiences” that merge food and entertainment in her dining room. “I think this weekend was above and beyond what I’ve ever seen here,” she said. “It was just different and bigger. I think the adrenaline of what F1 brings, the luxury it brings, just elevates Vegas to a level we haven’t seen. The clientele is international. We’ll see what happens with the Super Bowl, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen this kind of luxury in Vegas.”

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