Sin City takes a bite out of the Big Apple on June 16 when Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas chef David Werly, along with pastry chef Philippe Angibeau and master sommelier Will Costello, converge on the Beard House to present an evening of decadent consumption.
The dinner, titled “Toast of the Strip,” affords its guests a multi-course journey of savory delights, including foie gras, butter-poached lobster and Colorado lamb loin, finished off by elaborate sweets.
We recently sat down with Werly, an alum of Four-Star Le Cirque Las Vegas and current culinary leader behind Mandarin Oriental establishments such as Twist by Pierre Gagnaire and MOzen Bistro, to get his take on preparing for big events, industry trends he’s most exciting about right now and places he dines out when he’s not working.
What is your preparation like for the Beard House dinner?
We started by thinking about the menu. What dishes would work best in the environment and for the people we would be serving. We had to then try them and make sure [they] tasted and [were] presented how we envisioned.
There was also a lot of preparation with the logistics. How many people [do] we need to bring with us to make this event successful? We had to make sure that Mandarin Oriental, New York would be able to host us so our team could do mise en place. We [thought] about how we could save time by prepping certain things while in Las Vegas versus New York. We work hard to make it easy for us to go step-by-step once we arrive in New York so that there is very little need [for] improvisation. Everything is mapped out so that we can properly and efficiently execute.
How did the team come up with the menu and wines?
We came up with the menu first, which was a combination of new versus classic dishes. The classic dishes are a representation of my work, while the new ones came from inspiration after brainstorming as a culinary team. One of these dishes was from an idea we had years ago. [It was] something we had envisioned and had been holding in the back of our minds for an occasion such as this. We even had to purchase a turntable to get the design right.
The wine was picked both by our master sommelier Will Costello and myself. We picked a few of our favorites and ones that pair perfectly with each dish.
Is this the first time you have been to the Beard House with this team?
[Yes], however, I went three or four years ago with a different team of chefs. Like any event outside of your own kitchen, it is hard work but extremely exciting. It is an excellent experience to have as a team [as] we have a lot of fun prepping the dishes for the guests, who we know are going to be true foodies.
What inspired the “Toast of the Strip” menu?
The spring and summer seasons [are] the time of year where you are exiting out of winter, and it’s an exciting rejuvenation and new rhythm. You are able to begin executing new dishes with new products and fresh flavors.
I am [presenting] two different types of foie gras; one is in a terrine form and the other is served as custard. One version is a French interpretation of a classic but with a modern presentation and the other is a take on Japanese interpretation. Paired with the wines chosen, it is a going to be a truly glorious start to the dining experience.
Will we be able to get this menu in Vegas?
We do not have this menu at any of our restaurants on property, but I would happily re-create it for someone who wanted to serve it at a custom event. I could certainly create this meal outside of the property for private catering, whether in someone’s home or separate event space during a dinner for 10.
What culinary trends are you most excited about right now?
Wellness in foods will push [us] to review the classics and inspire us to rethink the simple things such as making shortbread without flour, just so it can be lighter and healthier. Or removing butter and animal fats during the preparation of a dish and challenging us to find a way to replace these ingredients so they still taste fantastic, but are better for you.
What’s a trick you use every day on the job?
Common sense. [It is] so important in the kitchen. For example, you can always add salt to a dish, but once it’s added, you will never be able to take it out. It could completely ruin the dish, thus ruining someone’s experience.
Where do you like to eat in Vegas when you aren’t working?
B&B Ristorante, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s eatery at The Venetian. I love that they are not afraid to use ingredients that aren’t commonly found in restaurants like sweetbreads and quail. Delicious dishes.
What is the best meal you’ve had in Vegas, outside of Mandarin Oriental?
[It] was on the night of my wedding. My wife and I were served a 16-course dinner at Alex, Alex Stratta’s former restaurant at Wynn. She and I were not served the same dishes, so really it ended up being a 32-course dinner — truly outstanding.