Chefs Dazzle at Palladin Dinner

By Marilyn LaRocque
Photos by Tom Donoghue

With the sparkling panorama of Las Vegas sprawling for miles 56 stories below them, one hundred enthusiastic food and wine aficionados immersed themselves in an eight-course culinary adventure created by the crème de la crème of celebrity chefs from the city’s finest restaurants.

The occasion was the eleventh anniversary of the Jean-Louis Palladin Dinner honoring the memory of the late, great chef who first gained fame in the U.S. for his prestigious restaurant, Jean Louis, at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D. C., which he launched in 1979. He also opened “Napa” at the Rio in Las Vegas. Tragically, he died suddenly of cancer in 2001.

Stellar chefs who prepared the Palladin dinner pose with the glitter of Las Vegas behind them,

Acclaimed Las Vegas chef André Rochat (Alizé at the Palms and André’s at MonteCarlo) envisioned the annual dinner as a way to honor the contribution Palladin made to fine cuisine and his dedicated encouragement of young chefs. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the scholarship programs of The James Beard Foundation and the Nevada Restaurant Association’s Pro-Start. This year’s event raised over $47,000.

Second highest silent auction bid went to an Elizabeth Taylor canvas and a magnum of d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz…$500.

A canvas of Marilyn Monroe and Sammy Davis, Jr., paired with a baseballe autographed by Don Larsen to garner top bid in the silent auction…$525.

Highly competitive guests hovered around display tables as the silent auction closed, ensuring that their bid was the highest. A Don Larsen autographed baseball and a “canvas” of Marilyn Monroe and Sammy Davis, Jr. went for $525. An Elizabeth Taylor canvas and a magnum of d’Arenberg “Dead Arm” Shiraz garnered $500. Total take for the silent auction was over $7,900. With media personality and bon vivant Robin Leach as Master of Ceremonies, live auction bidding ricocheted around the room. Cajoling and challenging, pitting one bidder against another, supporting a wife whose husband was dragging his heels, he kept the action buzzing.

Guests at the Palladin dinner entered between an array of rare cognacs at Alizé.

Bidding was so hot and heavy for two lots that the chefs agreed to double down on their donation. Since each of the four winning bidders paid $2,500, that’s a cool $10,000. Executive Chef/Owner of Valentino at The Venetian, Luciano Pellegrini will prepare a tasting menu dinner for eight with wine pairing. Fun and food at The Palms Resort and Casino formed the other blockbuster. Executive Chef Barry S. Dakake offered dinner for two at N9NE Steakhouse, while the Alizé team, of Chef Rochat, Chef de Cuisine Mark Purdy, and Executive Pastry Chef Tammy Alana will pair a seven-course tasting menu with wines. An overnight and pass to “Palms Night Life” at nightlife meccas—Ghostbar, Rain, and Moon—capped the lot. Final tally for the live auction? Nearly $18,500.

Everyone attending the festive evening was a winner, however, with the four-hour feast and outstanding wines, mostly French. Since each course presented two different dishes, it was actually a 16-course extravaganza with lots of sharing around the table. Bacchus would have been envious!

VIP guests enjoyed the eight-course Palladin Dinner at Alizé.

The evening began in sleek, trendy Ghostbar where champagne accompanied elegant hors d’oeuvre by Jean Phillipe Dufoin, Chef/Owner of Bleu, Blanc, Rouge Catering—duck confit in phyllo dough and seared Yellowfin tuna served in a Miso spoon. Relocating to Alizé, guests were greeted by a first course divided between Laurent Pillard, Executive Chef of Burger Bar and Fleur at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, who created a duo of foie gras, and Executive Chef Rick Moonen of RMSeafood, who made a green papaya salad with sea scallops.

Elegant hors d’oeuvre were served with champagne at the Ghost Bar, including seared Yellowfin Tuna with Ginger Emulsion in Miso Spoon created by Jean Philippe Dufoin, Chef/Owner, Bleu Blanc Rouge Catering

Green papaya salad with sea scallops was a first course prepared by RM Seafood Executive Chef Rick Moonen.

Laurent Pillard, Executive Chef of Burger Bar and Fleur at Mandalay Bay created a dual dish of foie gras, pan seared with caramelized pineapple and port ginger sauce and tacos with fig compote and torchon.

Akami Tuna “Capaccio” was the main ingredient chosen by Stephane Chevet, Corporate Executive Chef of Japonais at Mirage Resort. His alter ego, Gregory Pugin, Executive Chef of Le Cirque at Bellagio Hotel and casino, made Santa Barbara sea urchin “Ice Cream” with a ginger-lemon grass gelée.

Teamwork prepares the sea urchin “ice cream,” ginger-lemon grass gelée, and fennel puree from Le Cirque. Executive Chef and ringmaster Gregory Pugin wields the peppermill.

Butter poached lobster crépinette was the choice of Joung Sohn, Executive Chef of Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris Hotel; while Mark Purdy, Chef de Cuisine at Alizé, opted for sautéed Sterlet sturgeon and caviar beurre blanc. Vincent Pouessel, Executive Chef of Aureole at Mandalay Bay, served a duo of veal loin and sweetbreads; and Arnaud Masset, Executive Sous Chef of the hotel countered with chicken galantine with king crab legs. Half time!

Butter Poached Lobster Crépinette, Tarragon Aioli, and Fennel was the dish of Joung Sohn, Executive Chef, Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Paris Hotel

Continuing the gastronomic tour de force, Luciano Pellegrini, Chef/Owner of Valentino at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, made an open raviolo stuffed with polenta and roasted rabbit. California diver urchin and wild boar pancetta accented uni carbonara by Royden Ellamar, Executive Chef of Sensi at Bellagio.

Luciano Pellegrini, Chef/Owner of Valentino, puts the finishing touch, rabbit demiglace custard, on open raviolo stuffed with cheesy polenta, roasted rabbit, and wild mushrooms.

Beef starred in the sixth course, showcasing The Palms’ two restaurant chefs from The Palms Casino. Barry S. Dakake (N9NE Steakhouse) cooked Kobe beef short ribs; and Geno Bernardo (NOVE Italiano) braised beef neck. In typical European style, the salad course followed. Ryuki Kawasaki, Executive Chef at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, combined porcini mushrooms and broccoli florets; Dewayne Rose, Executive Chef of The Palms Casino, joined squid ink and marinated heirloom tomatoes in his pasta salad.

A unique dish of Cipollini Onion Braised Beef Neck, Piccola Zucca Puree, Rapini, and Demi-glace was prepared by Geno Bernardo, Executive Chef, NOVE Italiano, Palms Casino Resort.

Just as everyone could barely lift a fork, dessert arrived…chocolate hazelnut crunch bar with nutella ice cream by Megan Romano, Chef/Owner of Chocolate and Spice Bakery, and Napoleon crème brûlée by Todd Harrington, Executive Chef from Central by Michael Richard at Caesars Palace. Chocolate truffles and candy boxes from Chocolatier Jean-Marie Auboine and petit fours from Tammy Alana, Pastry Chef at Alizé and André’s propelling the feast over the top.

Megan Romano, Chef/Owner of Chocolate and Spice Bakery, pleased chocoholics with chocolate hazelnut crunch bar with nutella ice cream.

Each participating chef was gifted with special bourbon.

More Photos From The Event

Executive Chefs Barry Dakake, left, of N9NE Steakhouse, and Rick Moonen, RMSeafood, prep a dish.

Dr. Jud Fisher, a longtime friend of Chef Andre, peruses the menu.

Robin Leach and Chef André Rochat celebrate success.

Megan Romano, former executive pastry chef at Aureole, who now owns her own bakery and café, “Chocolate and Spice,” accepts her commemorative bottle of bourbon from Chef André Rochat, left, and bon vivant/media personality Robin Leach, Master of Ceremonies. The bourbon was a gift to all participating chefs.

Chef André Rochat is joined by, from left, Jodi Fonfa, Lynn Weidner, and Leora Blau.

Aueole Executive Chef Vincent Pouessel, left, receives his certificate from Paladin dinner founder André Rochat, Executive Chef and Owner of Alizé and André’s, and Master of Ceremonies Robin Leach, right.

Food, wine, and travel writer/editor Marilyn LaRocque has visited the seven continents, experiencing not only sights and sounds but also foods and wines. In Paris in May, she was named Vice Chargée de Presse Nationale, Des Etats Unis, of Les Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest and largest food and wine society. She was Senior Food & Wine Editor for LUXURY Las Vegas magazine for nearly 10 years and immersed herself in the cuisine scene in this over-the-top city. She knows and has written about celebrity chefs, their restaurants, and food and reported dining trends not only in Las Vegas but throughout the world, from South Africa to Scandinavia, New Zealand to South America. She knows master sommeliers and mixologists and has written extensively about wines and spirits, particularly California, as well as Oregon, Virginia, and Kentucky (Bourbon) and Tennessee (Whiskey). She has dined at globally celebrated restaurants such as Taillevent (Paris), Noma (Copenhagen), Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (London), Per Se (New York), and French Laundry (Yountville). She has served as a judge in culinary competitions, been guest lecturer at Le Cordon Bleu, Las Vegas, and served as PR consultant for the 2012 UNLVino, Nevada’s oldest and largest wine event. Photo by Jim K. Dekker