How do you begin to say thank you to one of our greatest living chefs? Gratitude was the feeling that came over me as I thought of what chef Thomas Keller has done to develop a level of upmost culinary excellence that has surpassed the challenges of time, economic hurdles, and increasing competition in the restaurant industry. Being able to spend a few minutes at his Las Vegas flagship, Bouchon Bistro, in the Venezia Tower at the Venetian Hotel, Casino and Resort, was indeed a privilege and a moment in time that I will cherish.
Chef Keller’s accolades speak to his professional acumen along with a bevy of Michelin stars and the highest regard and awards in the culinary industry. He recently brought his gracious and glorious culinary gifts to a sold out event in Las Vegas. Speaking with Keller at the Venezia Tower’s lovely pool setting, it was impossible not to feel his care and consciousness as he spoke about his ideas on what is timeless and necessary to continue a legacy of culinary excellence.
The Daily Meal: What is new and exciting with your ventures?
Thomas Keller: What is new and exciting is Bouchon! I am always excited when I come here to Las Vegas. This is such a special location here in the Venetian, the Venezia tower. When they built the tower eleven years ago and the outdoor patio, we decided to come here at that time. I love this space and nowhere in Las Vegas do you have this kind of privacy in a court yard setting. It is very attractive to me.
Rumor has it you have a new bakery item at Bouchon bakery.
We are reintroducing some old flavor profile ingredients with our peanut butter and chocolate cookie. It’s basically like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and who doesn’t like that?
With the development of new restaurants sometimes weekly here in Las Vegas, what does it take for a restaurant to stand out from the competition and continue to thrive and grow?
I don’t think that restaurants really compete with one another. I think people come into this town because they have a great deal of variety to choose from. There are a lot of choices here, a lot of diversity in dining. It could be Bouchon Bistro one evening, and then one could go to José Andrés for Spanish paella, Michael Mina’s steakhouse, or Joe’s Stone Crab. That’s the great thing about Las Vegas—you have such a wonderful concentration of experiences to choose from.
What it takes to stay relevant is really the team. The team must have the best training to stay current. The thing is that the restaurant business is really an easy kind of equation, you greet the guests with a smile, give them the food, and you say good night to the guest with a smile. If you do those things right, you will have business.
What should be in place at the very beginning of a customer’s experience? What should the entrance look like and what should a customer feel upon entering a dining establishment?
The customer should feel a sense of generosity, graciousness, and a spirit of hospitality and welcoming. Personality is important. When people are greeted with a smile and the right personality, people become comfortable right away. It is so simple, that so many of us often forget about it.