Ju­lian Ser­rano

Where Las Vegas - - CONTENTS -

The sen­sa­tional Span­ish chef talks about the dis­as­trous first meal he cooked as a child and his lat­est restau­rant sen­sa­tion, LAGO at the Bel­la­gio.

[Celebrity Chef and Restau­ra­teur]

A full-time Las Ve­gas res­i­dent, Ju­lian Ser­rano is known for his mem­o­rable take on Mediter­ranean-French cooking, which earned his first Las Ve­gas restau­rant, the Miche­lin two-starred Pi­casso at Bel­la­gio, 14 AAA Five Di­a­mond awards and the cov­eted Grand Award from Wine Spec­ta­tor. Ser­rano’s na­tive Spain was then the fo­cus for his next restau­rant, the epony­mous Ju­lian Ser­rano, which was named one of the Best New Restau­rants of 2010 by Esquire mag­a­zine. This month, Ser­rano turns the fo­cus to Ital­ian cui­sine at Bel­la­gio's LAGO.

What are your first mem­o­ries of cooking?

The first meal I ever cooked was baked fish for Christ­mas din­ner. I made such a mess in the kitchen that my mother told me I wasn’t al­lowed to cook again! But I was drawn to cooking be­cause I love to travel and I be­lieved that be­com­ing a chef would al­low me that op­por­tu­nity.

Your restau­rants have been awarded many times over. What does it take to cre­ate an award-win­ning ex­pe­ri­ence?

Con­sis­tency in both food and ser­vice. Guests know that ev­ery time they come to any of my restau­rants, they can ex­pect the same high-qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. We treat ev­ery guest with re­spect and cater to di­etary re­stric­tions.

How did you come up with the con­cept for LAGO?

Ev­ery­one loves tra­di­tional Ital­ian food. I love tapas-style dining be­cause it en­cour­ages con­ver­sa­tion and makes lunch or din­ner a so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence. I de­cided to com­bine th­ese two con­cepts and cre­ate a restau­rant that serves tra­di­tional Ital­ian small plates.

The small-plate con­cept is popular. Do you find it gets guests to try new things?

Yes, the small plate con­cept does give guests the chance to taste a wide va­ri­ety of dishes from the menu, and they are more likely to try some­thing new if it’s served in a small por­tion and they can share it with a friend. Small plates also give guests the chance to cre­ate the dining ex­pe­ri­ence that they want— whether that’s a quick meal on the go or a long so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence with friends and fam­ily.

What makes a great dish?

Sim­ple, clean fla­vors made from the fresh­est in­gre­di­ents avail­able. Ev­ery dish should be made with pas­sion.

What is one item you can't be with­out in the kitchen?

Salt. It brings out the nat­u­ral fla­vors in in­gre­di­ents and makes ev­ery­thing taste bet­ter.

What's your fa­vorite dish to cook?

It's sim­ple—oven roasted chicken with french fries.

Great wine goes hand-in-hand with Ital­ian cui­sine. LAGO also has an in­no­va­tive mixol­ogy pro­gram. Per­son­ally, do you pre­fer a glass of wine or a great cock­tail?

I en­joy both, but you can never go wrong with a great glass of wine. LAGO fea­tures an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of Ital­ian wines.

You work in your own kitchens ev­ery night. What are the benefits of that?

I know all of my staff very well, which builds trust. When I come to my restau­rants, I say hello and shake hands with ev­ery­one work­ing that day. I’m happy to say that many of my staff have been with me since day one.

What's your fa­vorite guilty in­dul­gence?

French fries.

What are your pas­sions in ad­di­tion to cooking?

I en­joy play­ing ten­nis and trav­el­ing.

What are your fa­vorite travel des­ti­na­tions?

I love go­ing to Spain. It’s where I was born and raised, so it feels like go­ing home. I travel to New York of­ten to visit my daugh­ter who lives there. I also en­joy vis­it­ing San Fran­cisco, one of the cities where I got my start in the culi­nary in­dus­try.

LAGO's dining room

Gnoc­chi at LAGO

Crudo at LAGO

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