Not all adventures end up the way you want them to. I guess we couldn't call them adventures if they did. I left the Guy Savoy, Las Vegas restaurant before my visit was supposed to be over. I flew from Paris all the way to Vegas to learn how to prepare and cook fish so that when I return to the Guy Savoy, Paris restaurant I can move from the meat to the fish station. Unfortunately, I don't think that that was clearly communicated in the beginning and I mainly did a lot of stagier work.
Don't get me wrong, I'm more than willing to pitch in and give a hand where ever needed, but I've already worked at the Paris restaurant for 8 months and I don't want to start at the beginning again. There are many people working and apprenticing at the Las Vegas restaurant already and the service is slow compared to Paris. I prefer to work in faster environments that get your adrenaline pumping. But, when there's 49 covers over a 6 hour time span with a staff of 18 chefs it makes the 11 hour work day drip like molasses.
Besides getting to spend time with my talented French friend Damien Dulas from the Guy Savoy, Paris restaurant and now the executive chef of the Las Vegas restaurant, the highlight of my visit was working with Hung, one of the sous chef's and shoe-in for the next Top Chef television program. (yes, I'm still waiting to hear back). He came to visit me in Paris to see how we do things across the Atlantic and invited me to come and check it out in Las Vegas.
Hung has been cooking since he was 9 years old. He began at his parents popular Vietnamese restaurant in Massachusettes. Before moving to Las Vegas he worked at Per Se in New York where he also did fish. I guess you could say he's a fish expert. He is extremly talented and I'm not too excited to compete against him on national TV if I get the spot. But, I know we each have different cooking backgrounds and we bring our experiences to the table in different ways.
Regardless of the fact that we're both vying for spots on the TV show, Hung took it upon himself to be my private instructor. We spent two whole days in the fish prep room just working on preparation. It's my personal philosophy that until you know how to work with an animal you can't cook it properly. I was surprised to learn that there is a prep cook who prepares most of the fish. Lucky for them – we don't have that luxury in Paris.
With Hung I learned how to handle sea bass half the size of me, dover sole, scallops, oysters, tuna, and lobster. He took extra care in showing me how to move my knife across the bones so as to not rip the delicate flesh and various ways of preparation and cooking. We experimented with different ways to cook lobster and had lots of fun eating our experiments! Hung is a master.
Because service was so slow I tried to keep the spirits up of the two chefs at the fish station and joke around with them. I helped them here and there, but aside from comic relief, they really didn't need me and I found myself bored and hot most of the time.
I was scheduled to come into work on Sunday, but since no fish was arriving I decided that Saturday would be my last day. I left two bottles of '96 Dom for the chefs and a funny card. I know they won't miss me too much and frankly, I'm looking forward to getting back to the Paris restaurant. I know we might not have everything they have in Vegas – our equipment is older, the kitchen is small and split level, our staff mostly under the age of 20, and the hours outrageously long – but to me it's my second family and I miss them. Call it glutton for punishment or just old school, but I prefer the original.
There is a reason the Guy Savoy in Paris has 3 stars and I have lots of respect for the young Parisian cooks that make so many personal sacrifices to achieve the best that they can.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot...
I did have a little bit of fun on Sunday night. A friend of mine, Jamie, drove in from Utah and we went out. I mean we went OUT!!!! We started with sushi at Nobu's and were pleasantly surprised to find our $300 bill comped. (yes, there are some great perks about working in Las Vegas!). After a fabulous dinner of beautifully prepared fish and several bottles of sake, we left the Hard Rock Casino and headed to Palms where we tried our luck at black jack.
I lost and Jamie won. It was her first time gambling, so she had all the beginner's luck going on. After she won $160 bucks and I lost around the same amount, we headed to another club at the casino called Moon where Jamie promised to buy drinks all night with her newfound wealth.
At Moon the bouncer decided to put us on pedestals to dance way above the crowds. Unfortunately he wouldn't let us down from the pedestals. But we had a great time on our private stages and enjoyed lording it over the dance floor. The music at Moon started to get strange around 2AM so we carefully climbed down from our perches and drove over to Caesar's Palace to dance at another club called Pure. Pure was fun and Jamie met a cute boy there. I continued to dance while Jamie snogged her new beau at one of the VIP tables.
Left alone on the dance floor while Jamie was heavily engrossed in her new love, I became bate for just about every unattached man there. Considering that nobody cares whether you're married or not – the wedding ring factor doesn't seem to be a deterant – I decided that I would only speak french and make great effort at speaking English. This scared off just about everyone. Funny how people talk louder when they think you don't understand the language. As if yelling at some one might help with comprehension.
The lights came up at 4AM and everyone filtered out into the casino, but Jamie decided that she wanted to see a strip tease (she's never seen one before) so we headed to a gentlemen't club with her new beau in tow. Unfortunately the dancers were amateur and the crowd at 4AM was not very attractive, but we made the best out of it and left an hour later to drive home just as the sun started to break through the mountains.
Good times in Sin City..