Culi­nary Can­vases

Wynn Magazine - - FOOD SPOTLIGHT -

Three chefs all share a sin­gle goal: cre­at­ing their own artis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Wynn ex­pe­ri­ence.

When Si­na­tra ex­ec­u­tive Chef theo Schoeneg­ger de­scribes the in­spi­ra­tion for his craft, it is quite pos­si­ble that you might mis­take him for an ar­chi­tect or a pain­ter. his ma­jor in­flu­encers in­clude artists from Michelan­gelo and Rem­brandt to pi­casso and dalí, and “the warmth of our en­vi­ron­ment, our but­ter­flies and drag­on­flies” are en­vi­ron­men­tal muses. You might smile when you re­al­ize he is talk­ing about the lob­ster risotto he serves at Si­na­tra at Encore, but then he is de­scrib­ing food el­e­vated to an art. “if you look at how cook­ing has evolved, it has gone from putting some­thing on a plate to ma­nip­u­lat­ing its el­e­ments to the most art­ful cre­ations. pro­por­tion, height, schemes, col­ors”—all per­form a bal­letic role when Schoeneg­ger’s lob­ster curls its way around a pre­cisely molded risotto. “i like clean lines,” he ex­plains. Sauces and gar­nishes must make as much vis­ual sense as they do on the palate.

this is the com­mon bond among Wynn and Encore chefs: they all de­sign and ex­e­cute dishes with un­yield­ing pre­ci­sion, though their in­flu­ences lie in vastly dif­fer­ent cul­tures and are based on decades of dis­tinctly per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. Re­cently Schoeneg­ger joined Chef Chen Wei Chan of Wazuzu and Wing lei’s Chef Ming Yu at the newly re­designed Wing lei to dis­cuss their in­flu­ences and artis­tic sig­na­tures.

how do you set out to cre­ate a new dish?

Chen Wei Chan: i started as an ap­pren­tice in a kitchen af­ter four years of train­ing in wa­ter­col­ors and oils at a tai­wanese art school. Be­fore Rosewood lit­tle dix Bay’s Sugar Mill and work­ing at the Carlysle in New York and open­ing the Chedi in oman, that was my train­ing. So when i try to cre­ate a spe­cial dish, i some­times draw it. i like to put ev­ery in­gre­di­ent on a piece of pa­per so i can imag­ine how i can present it well.

Theo Schoeneg­ger: For me, it is very or­ganic; it’s about the feel­ing of the in­gre­di­ents in your hands. And it is about gath­er­ing in­spi­ra­tion from these places of high energy and in­flu­ence—like when I worked at Patina [in the Frank Gehry–de­signed Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall in Los An­ge­les] and I was work­ing from the pal­ette of the farm­ers mar­ket in Santa Mon­ica. There is noth­ing more beau­ti­ful than the color of a pur­ple car­rot, or a glis­ten­ing pome­gran­ate. There you have your in­spi­ra­tion. Ming Yu: The idea for a dish is con­ceived in my head, and I play around with it for sev­eral weeks some­times. There’s a lot of trial and er­ror. But with the ren­o­va­tion of Wing Lei, which is so sparkling and new, ev­ery as­pect of the food had to re­flect that cleaner, brighter, more col­or­ful aes­thetic. One of the dishes that is al­most a lit­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the art in Wing Lei is a smoked salmon “flower”—inspired by the golden chrysan­the­mums in the res­tau­rant. But as a sig­na­ture dish, the crab salad with bright mango, av­o­cado, and miso-yuzu dress­ing is an ex­am­ple of that bright new ideal.

Does art in­flu­ence the way that you com­pose your dishes?

Chen: When I stepped into Wazuzu for the first time for my in­ter­view, the 27-foot crys­tal dragon made with 90,000 crys­tals in the mid­dle of the room just caught my eye. It is a mas­cot and the sym­bol for Wazuzu, and as a chef it be­came im­por­tant to in­cor­po­rate it into our new dishes. In fact, we use a cus­tom-made iron to brand our Wazuzu sig­na­ture Dragon Slider with a dragon—and we serve it with our pri­vate stock Aus­tralian Sher Wagyu beef.

“I like to put ev­ery in­gre­di­ent on a piece of pa­per so I can imag­ine how I can present it well.” — chen wei chan

Schoeneg­ger: Grow­ing up in an iso­lated area like the Dolomites, as beau­ti­ful as it is, mo­ti­vated me to ex­plore the world, and in do­ing so, I have been ex­posed to so much art. I had the plea­sure to ob­serve San­dro Chia while he painted his fa­mous mu­ral in Palio [the 128-foot mu­ral of the Palio horse race in Siena, which Chia painted in the Palio Bar on West 51st Street in New York City], and I met Andy Warhol in the early years there. I cooked for Frank Si­na­tra on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, which re­ally helped shape the Si­na­tra ex­pe­ri­ence.

Yu: I draw in­spi­ra­tion ev­ery day I am in the din­ing room, but just be­ing in Wynn and Encore and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing how the col­ors and dé­cor com­pli­ment each other makes me think more cre­atively. And we are so im­mersed in the space; I ac­tu­ally de­signed our Pek­ing Duck carts specif­i­cally for the room.

Chen: I’m al­ways think­ing about cre­at­ing art. Of course, I’m inspired by other chefs at Wynn; the mul­ti­di­men­sional, sculp­tural qual­ity of our wok-fried Wagyu beef with black pep­per sauce served on a crispy deep-fried noo­dle bas­ket is di­rectly inspired by my ex­pe­ri­ence of the re­sort and its art.

Who inspires you at Wynn?

Yu: I like to talk to my friend [Mizumi chef] Devin Hashimoto. We talk a lot about ideas for pre­sen­ta­tions, and his Big Is­land Abalone and Black Truf­fle Chawan­mushi [a riff on a Ja­panese egg cus­tard dish] is pure art.

Chen: The Wynn and Encore build­ings them­selves are pieces of art. I still re­mem­ber the first time I came to Las Ve­gas, just stay­ing here and look­ing and look­ing. It re­minds me ev­ery day that we have this im­pec­ca­ble, five-star re­sort, and we strive to cre­ate art­ful food that main­tains that stan­dard.

Schoeneg­ger: Pop­eye! How can you not be inspired by that guy? n


Chefs Theo Schoeneg­ger, Chen Wei Chan, and Ming Yu.

Lob­ster risotto at Si­na­tra. 54

The dragon is a strong inf l uence on Wazuzu’s de­sign, from the walls to the plates.

Wagyu beef served on a crispy noo­dle bas­ket at Wazuzu.

The main din­ing room at Wing Lei inspires the chef’s plat­ing pre­sen­ta­tions.

56 Chef Ming Yu in the kitchen at Wing Lei (above) and his col­or­ful cre­ation: crab salad with mango and av­o­cado.

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