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Bitch at Us: Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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The Head Bitches in Charge, Becca and Cori Sue, were invited to Las Vegas for Bon Appetit magazine’s 9th annual Vegas Uncork’d event. The Bitches were lucky enough to rub elbows with some of the greatest chefs in the world, try some of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, and enjoy all that the city has to offer. This interview is part of the Uncork’d series, featuring stories and interviews from the weekend. Thanks for having us, Bon Appetit!

 

Of all the chefs Cori Sue and I have met over the course of five years as Bitches Who Brunch, there is one that we both unanimously and unequivocally adore. It’s true—like horrible mothers with no shame, we picked a favorite.

The wooing occurred on our very first day in Las Vegas at Vegas Uncork’d. We were invited for a private media lunch with Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Frenchman behind many of the world’s best steakhouses and restaurants.

I had been to the restaurant before, years ago, for a post-conference work dinner. It was then that I sunk into one of the large round booths and, with no shame, delighted in the most amazing wine, the most enormous steaks, and the most ridiculous side dishes during one of the most extravagant dinners I’ve had in recent memory.

Jean-Georges at Aria

It was strange being back in the dark, sexy restaurant in the middle of the day, nearly two years later. Especially as the big restaurant was empty, with only its famous chef standing guard by the bar. When we arrived, Jean-Georges greeted us at the door with ice-cold Moscow mules and a huge smile.

Jean-Georges at Aria

His french accent is simply charming and his warmth contagious. The tiny, funny chef quickly whisked us girls back into his kitchen, where a team of sous chefs and steak experts were already hard at work preparing what seemed to be a feast. In the middle of the huge kitchen was a long shiny metal table, where enormous slabs of raw meat were being hurled onto platters, like a scene from the Flintstones.

Jean-Georges at Aria

We stood around the table as Jean-Georges’ brilliant assistants walked us through each of the types of beef, along with the cuts, expertly slicing them into rather large pieces. Jean-Georges himself began mixing various sauces in blenders, allowing us to taste them freshly mixed and as they are typically served, after aging for 24 hours—each truly a very different taste.

Jean-Georges at Aria

The filets piled up on the trays, and—silly us—we just thought we were in for an amazing lesson on types of beef. Oh, no. The chefs brought us back to the grills and started explaining the fine of of cooking the perfect steak. Meanwhile, with our backs turned, the team had turned over that shiny metal table into the most gorgeous place-setting for lunch.

Jean-Georges at Aria

When the steaks were cooked, the team brought back the trays, each piled high, and we all stood around the table while the red wine was poured and the filets sliced. The focus was on the meat, and the team gave expert instruction on each type, cut, and sauce. We got to try everything—from the T-bone to the $550-a-filet kobe. It was probably one of the greatest food experiences of my life.

Jean-Georges at Aria

After this most extravagant kitchen lunch, we were all in a semi-food coma, milling about and commenting on what we just ate. But Jean-Georges and his team were already back behind the pastry counter, whipping up two incredible desserts, some even topped with caramelized popcorn, some with fresh fruits.

Jean-Georges at Aria

After lunch, we sat in Jean-Georges’ restaurant and asked him a few questions about the space, his philosophy behind what he cooks, and brunch, of course.

What’s your philosophy behind this restaurant in Las Vegas?

This is Jean-Georges Steakhouse in Aria. It’s all about beautiful cuts of meats, as well as beautiful fish. The philosophy is really to get the best meats, age it for 28 days or more, cook it with vegetables and things.

But I’m focused on different sauces. The sauces are what make the steak. We have hot sauces, jalapeño, miso mustard butter with tamarind. The sauces are making the steaks pop.

Jean-Georges at Aria

A lot of your restaurants serve brunch. What’s your brunch philosophy?

All my restaurants in New York City serve brunch. I really learned to love brunch in America, in New York especially. I love mixing the sweet, sour, spicy, salty. I love to eat my pancakes with eggs. Brunch for me is a blend of hot, sour, spicy, sweet. Everything is there.

Jean-Georges at Aria

When you’re cooking at home, what are you making?

In the restaurant, every day I plate food. We plate, we plate. At home, I never plate. I will put a pot or a big platter in the middle of the table and people serve themselves. It’s all family-style. No plating at all.

Jean-Georges at Aria

What is next for you?

Oh, many projects. We’re putting a restaurant in Dubai. Late June or July we’re opening a vegetarian restaurant in the city. Called ABC Green.

It’s all about vegetarian, vegan and working farmers. I look at this restaurant more like food as medicine.

Jean-Georges at Aria

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