Thursday, May 14, 2009

Caesar's Palace Grand Tasting-Hated It!

Too crowded, a crushed feeding frenzy.

Photo shot very early in event, wished it had stayed this way!

It was 95 degrees with humidity (desert=dry), what's up with that? Where did all the people come from? OMG!! Last year was fabulous, 400 (or so) people in a roomy, air conditioned tent, with top quality ingredient laden samples, plenty of wine, Belgian Stella Artois' beer expert, Marc Stroobrandt generously pouring. My stunning review last year is why I returned with a guest. Not this year!

We (1000 people) had to wait over one hour in Caesar's crowded hallway (L.A. fire code would have shut that one down) while the PR Police shooed folks behind the line. "stay behind the rope". I was promised a press pass in writing weeks ahead to get in early, but after "checking in" I never got one! Grrrrr.........

Grabbed a plastic wine glass (we were in the pool area) and started to search for the wine and beer (I needed a drink to lower my blood pressure). Restaurant facade serving stations were overwhelmed plating teeny-tiny soup samples, mini burgers, overcooked tuna sliders, cold saucy pasta, greasy lamb, rubbery pork, a few desserts.

Blaring music, blinding lights, sweaty chefs, 10-15 people lined up to get a micro mouthful. I saw food spilled on guests while being crushed in the feeding frenzy! Skimpy wine selection (one-ounce pours, pa-leeze), no beer to speak of, chefs running out of food. I paid $180 x 2=$360, including s&h fees for this! Did Bon Appetit forget to give the chefs a headcount? I left hungry, thirsty, & ripped-off. The bottom line: Hated it!

None of the food was memorable. Last year Richard Wing of Wing Lei (@WynnLV ) served delicious peking duck and that sample is what got me in his restaurant. That's what these "tastings" are for: to promote a future restaurant visit = $$$. Cha-Ching!!

There was one memorable Vegas Uncork'd moment when I asked a "celebrity" TV Food Network Chef, Bobby Flay if he used a Food Stylist for his cookbooks and TV appearances. Rudely and with an enraged voice said "absolutely never"! "I never, ever let one of "those people" touch my food, ever"!

Wow! I'm one of those people (a Food Stylist). He went on and on insulting my profession ( like a hair/makeup stylist to an actor, a food stylist's job is to make the chef's dish look stunningly appetizing for photography, still or moving). He continued to belittle and question me in disbelief that I am also on The Food Network (I'm a reoccurring, on-camera judge for Food Network Challenge, airing this coming July 12).

I politely backed off, asked if I can quote what he said, wished him a good evening, and left rather shook up. I have never encountered this kind of treatment from a chef (French or American) before. When I returned home to L.A. I did view his cookbooks. His money saving, amateurish attempt to self-style his dishes look novice & unappetizing. This incident shall be discussed at the Boston Univ. Int'l Food Stylist/Photography Conference where I'm speaking June 13, 2009.

Suggestion to Bon Appetit for next year: Obtain a beer, wine and vodka/gin sponsor. Have the event in an air conditioned ballroom, organize the drink/alcohol area, coordinate in advance what chefs serve ( let's not have everyone bring the soup or easiest, cheapest bites). Don't over promise or assume we all are culinary uneducated, rich, fast-foodies impressed with conceited TV cooks (don't get me started)! Quality over mediocrity, please!!!!

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