Vegas Uncork’d 2017 by Bon Appétit

I know that it might sound crazy,  but I never knew that Las Vegas had such a dynamic food scene. Let’s face it,  food and Vegas don’t come together very often in the same sentence. Most people would immediately associate Vegas with neon signs, casinos, gambling, showgirls, the extravaganza that is The Venetian,  the Bellagio fountains and stag and hens weekends. While this is all true –   fine dining, top quality and vintage wines, and great cocktails are also very much a part of Vegas. The Vegas Uncork’d festival showcases Vegas’ resorts, restaurants and culinary celebrities in the best light.

Vegas Uncork’d  is an annual high-end culinary and wine event in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is a partnership between Bon Appetit and the city of Las Vegas. It’s the brainchild of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, their advertising agency R&R Partners and various Las Vegas resort partners.
Launched in 2007 and now in its eleventh year,  Vegas Uncork’d bills itself as ‘The Ultimate Wine and Food Experience.’  A food and drinks extravaganza at some of Las Vegas’ best-known hotels, including Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, the Cosmopolitan and the Bellagio. This event features more than 80 celebrated and Michelin-starred chefs, sommeliers and mixologists over 25 events occurring over a spectacular four-day long weekend.

Upon receiving my itinerary, I was delighted that most of the main events I applied for were built into my programme – yes, I asked to attend events and that how it works: you go to the Vegas Uncork’d site and see the list of events by date, timings and chefs headlining each event.  Each Uncork’d event is individually allocated, and you can build your plan.

Getting into Las Vegas was a smooth flight just under 10 hours from London Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic, an airline that still gives you the old flight perks like blanket, food and drinks,  alcohol only with food, snacks at no extra charge.

As soon as you arrive at McCarran International Airport you catch a glimpse of Las Vegas, it’s so near and yet so far to walk to.  A short ride and the Vegas Strip is welcoming new arrivals with open arms.

By London standards, it was hot, 27C when we landed at lunchtime, but sunbathing had to wait, there were eateries to visit and cocktails and bubbles to drink! I arrived the day before the start of Vegas Uncork’d  so I had time to acclimatise and get in the zone, the jet-lag had to wait too!

Vegas Uncork’d


Saber Off at The LINQ Promenade


The festival started with a splash at The Vortex at The LINQ, with acclaimed American chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. They both sabered bottles of Perrier-Jouët champagne to kick off the festivities.   They have been part of this epicurean show for the past 11 years; the “Too Hot Tamales” as they are known in America were the first female chefs to lead the saber off. Great fun with lots of beautiful food and champagne.


Welcome drinks at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas at  The Chandelier 1.5


Mariena Mercer

We experienced some fantastic drinks by female mixologist Mariena Mercer often called Las Vegas Cocktail Goddess.  The cocktails were very delicious, creative and fun.


breathe that smoke and get your wings
Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum, Lemongrass,
Raspberry, Thai Chile, Red Bull Orange Edition
& Liquid Nitrogen-Charged Raspberries


a multi-sensory experience: Dragon Berry Rum, Sloe Gin, Aperol,
Pickled Strawberry Lychee Pink Peppercorn Shrub,
over a Miracleberry Ginger Gobstopper Ice Sphere
with a scented Lolligarden

The Old Homestead Steakhouse at Caesars Palace

Part of the Master Series, this dinner was about rich tradition with a new twist.  At Old Homestead, brothers Greg & Marc Sherry, are a pair of American chefs who devised their menu of divine dishes and exquisite wine pairings featuring steak matched with premium wines from Napa Valley. As an added bonus every dish featured chocolate. A fascinating evening of pure indulgence.

Prime beef carpaccio salad with chocolate olive oil vinaigrette, cocoa nibs and Pinot gel.  Wine pairing: Pinot Noir, EnRoute Les Pommiers, Russian River Valley 2014

Next course was white chocolate poached Maine lobster with black truffle gnocchi and Meyer lemon foam.  Paired with Chardonnay, Far Niente, Papa Valley, 2015

For the main course, dark chocolate rubbed New York strip with Foie gras bread pudding and chocolate mole. Match wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Far Niente, Oakville Napa Valley, 2014

Unfortunately this event overrun no time for desert…

Uncork’d Event: Lunch like a Spaniard with José Andrés at Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino

Chef José Andrés

A genuinely enjoyable and relaxed Spanish experience in Vegas by culinary pioneer and innovator, Chef José Andrés. He is often credited with bringing the ‘small plates’ concept to the US.


José and his team cooked paella over their renowned live fire pit at Jaleo – one of his many restaurants in the US. The event showcased his restaurant’s most famous menu items, like José’s Taco, a slice of Jamon Ibérico de Bellota topped with osetra caviar and gold flakes; Coca (thin crispbread)  con Erizas del Mar, crusty Spanish cristal bread topped with sea urchin (an acquired taste) and Ibérico bacon. Their celebrated Gin & Tonic was fantastic and take away glasses were provided!

Uncork’d Event: Grand Tasting  at Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace

Uncork’d’s signature event, this is where over 2,500 foodies enjoy a staggering array of signature dishes prepared by some of the world’s most well-known chefs. It features more than 50 award-winning chefs and over 100 of the best wines and spirits from around the world.  This year about 108 stands were present. Food galore comes to mind with many impressive offerings.

pastries by Michelin Chef Guy Savoy


Chef Guy Savoy








Chef Gordon Ramsey


Rao’s meatballs


Rao’s tiramisu and Bailey’s cupcake


Uncork’d Event: Picnic in The Park

The Park, located between Monte Carlo and New York-New York is a new ‘Garden’ outdoor venue by MGM

This was the most beautiful event of them all, visually pleasing and with food offerings from renowned and Michelin starred Chefs. Among them Alain Ducasse, Charlie Palmer, Michael Mina, Julian Serrano, Rick Moonen, Tom Colicchio, Shawn McClain, Roy Ellamar, Akira Back, David Werly & many more! It couldn’t go wrong.  On arrival, we were given a basket with a plate, cutlery, and champagne flutes. We were invited to walk around this ‘Garden’ which was chock full of beautiful and creative twists on classic picnic dishes created by the Chefs and accompanied by some equally creative drinks as well as premium wines and quality fizz – it was a land of plenty!


Hawaiian barbecue


The tables were gracefully decorated with flowers and colouring books, classic board games and a variety of social games such as ping pong and corn hole were scattered about the place. Bliss Dance, a 40-foot-tall sculpture by artist Marco Cochrane was the focal point of The Park experience. We were provided with flower garlands for our hair and gold tattoo transfers for our bodies.  It was a gorgeous sunny day with spectacular food and bubbles.



Michelin Picnic by Rivea by  Chef Allain Ducasse

 Uncork’d Event: Sweet Escape: An Evening of Buddy, Beignets, Bon Bons & Booze at the Palazzo Pool Deck at The Palazzo Las Vegas


Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro hosted a decadent evening to surrender to the sweeter side of life. The evening featured the chefs of The Venetian Las Vegas and The Palazzo, each preparing a unique take on beignets and bonbons. The poolside reception included a live band and speciality cocktails.  This extra special night was spent dancing away by the pool.



Cocktail demo at Libertine Social with Modern Mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim at Mandalay Bay

I was reading about Tony Abou-Ganim’s and his life story makes a great script for a film. Tony started in the bar business learning the craft from his cousin Helen David at the Brass Rail Bar in Port Huron, Michigan. He went on to develop the cocktail programs of numerous restaurants in San Francisco and New York, as well as the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  I had the pleasure to participate in a masterclass with him in a private bar area at the  Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.  It was an intimate event that felt very much like having a friend teaching how to make great cocktails and a few tricks of the trade. Fantastic!

Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist

Uncork’d Event: Little Italy From City to Strip: Rao’s Italian Brunch Hosted by Rao’s Owners Frank Pellegrino Jr. & Ron Straci at Rao’s at Caesars Palace

The epicurean extravaganza closed with Rao’s Italian brunch organised by Frank Pellegrino Jr. and Ron Straci on Sunday, April 30. A fun and entertaining demo by Frank and Dino was the centre stage of this event, together with family members dotted around the room sharing stories and anecdotes from the family and the restaurant business.

Caesar salad, roasted red peppers by Rao’s


lobster oregano


pan-seared steak


blackberry gelato served with Zeppole by Rao’s

I tasted a three-course brunch with dishes from Southern Italy including Caesar salad, roasted red peppers, lobster oregano, pan-seared steak with sautéed mushrooms and onions, baked beefsteak tomatoes, asparagus and Parmigiano Reggiano, ending with a delicate Zeppole and luscious blackberry gelato.

Frank Pellegrino and head chef Gino Gatto

In a  little Q&A with Frank Pellegrino, I asked a bit about his history, where he and his team gets inspiration for the menus and for the cookbooks:

‘I started working at the restaurant with my father at the age of 12 as a Summer job at my dad’s wish, and have worked at Rao’s ever since.
The restaurant is for the people and celebrates the good relationship with the customers, who sometimes they inspire the dishes in the menus too. This business is all about customer service, which is in short supply nowadays. Rao’s is about building relationships. Chef Dino, who has worked for Rao’s for the last 21 years and oversees the whole kitchen operation throughout the restaurants, he has developed the same connections with customers and peers and has  strength these relationships in the process. The cooking is Southern simple Italian fare with Sicilian influence here and there, food that comes straight from the heart.  Chef Dino has worked on a few new dishes and enhanced them to today’s taste buds and trends. 

The new cookbook features staple dishes and lots of family recipes from the team at Rao’s.  The recent book talks about the history of Rao’s and their Harlem neighbourhood in New York, where Rao’s started. We encourage people to cook and try the recipes and make them their own.

Desert island ingredient:  Rao’s Tomatoes jars – they are hard to find, and I would go fishing and create more dishes using Rao’s tomatoes!’
Las Vegas was all the glam and glitter I expected and more. It’s a unique place that needs to be experienced.   I had heard many elaborate in-depth descriptions, but nothing beats the personal experience, especially when food and drink are involved. Pack your bags for the Vegas Uncork’d in 2018.

The central and famous hotels resorts in Las Vegas are like something you see in Hollywood films, except they are real!  They are cities, I will explain in detail in my next post: Las Vegas, Luxury stays and eats.

Until next time why not join me on  InstagramTwitter and Facebook…X

Disclosure:  I was the guest on this press trip to Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit organised by Hills Balfour in conjunction with R&R Partners and Las Vegas Tourism Board.



  1. Claire Jessiman
    May 24, 2017 / 11:27 am

    WOW! I have to admit to having no aspirations whatsoever to visit Vegas with the preconception that it was rather cheap and tacky and all about gambling and getting married by Elvis! You have totally changed my idea of the place and it has now moved onto my wish list.

  2. Evelyne CulturEatz
    May 24, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    Wow also, what an insane expereince amd event. So much amazing food, drinks, chefs. I gained 5 pounds reading this post lol. I want to try the Hawaiian barbecue. Why is that lady blue? Yeah I know Las vegas has good food but normally in restaurants very $$$

  3. May 25, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    What an absolutely wonderful foodie adventure! No, food and Vegas have never been combined in my mind, but this has totally changed thanks to reading this wonderful post! So impressed!

  4. LuxuryColumnist
    May 26, 2017 / 10:18 pm

    I've never been to Vegas but this sounds like an amazing foodie experience. The dark chocolate rubbed strip steak must have been delicious