Making Friends at Vegas Uncork’d

Las Vegas transformed into a foodie paradise May 10-13 as well-known chefs from Bellagio, Caesars Palace, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay teamed up to present once-in-a-lifetime events. With the lure of having more celebrity chefs per square foot than anywhere else in the world, Vegas Uncork’d has always been a popular festival with discerning palates. During these four days, The Strip was full of happy food lovers sharing treasured photos taken with their favorite celebrity chefs, the staggering variety of great food they sampled, and stories of their interactions with the culinary icons.

But no one was excited as I was. A devoted foodie at heart, I was thrilled to be working on the city’s premier food & wine event and even more excited for an insider look. What I did not expect, however, was meeting talented, five-star chefs and eventually becoming friends with them.

I first met Chef Bradley Ogden, owner and chef of his namesake restaurant in Caesars Palace, along with other participating chefs during the Vegas kick-off event in February, when we broke the Guinness World Record for uncorking the most bottles of wine simultaneously. Bradley has a great sense of humor and a charm in front of the camera that endears him to audiences, making him one of my favorite chefs to work alongside. As Vegas Uncork’d approached, we quickly developed a working relationship that resulted in a funny episode during the Grand Tasting.

Accompanying the photographer around the Grand Tasting, my job was to take photos of the event atmosphere, food dishes and the chefs themselves. It sure sounded easy – until I discovered the chefs had all left their stations to mingle with the crowd and eat at each other’s booths. So for the next two hours, I weaved in and out of a crowd of 2,500+ in a five-acre pool garden trying to find chefs.
When I finally found Bradley with a captivated crowd around him, I breathed a sigh of relief and checked off his name in the long list of participating chefs. But he had another challenge for me before he would allow the photographer to take a picture. Our conversation went as follows:

Me: “Bradley! I’m so glad I found you! Can our photographer take a photo of you and your food please?”
Bradley: “Hi there! I can, but only if you will eat my food.” (Holds up a dish and starts piling it on a fork.)
Me: “I’m working so I can’t eat. Please? I just need one photo.” 
Bradley: “No. Just one little bite. You need to eat even if you’re working.”

In the end, he refused to budge and I shyly ate a bite of deliciousness in front of flashing bulbs and a curious crowd of on-lookers. Always stationed behind the camera, I was mortified. True to his word, he then posed for the camera with a charming smile.

Not only did Vegas Uncork’d manage to serve up sumptuous bites from acclaimed chefs, it also gave the public a chance to get to know their favorite chefs. For me, I was lucky enough to become friends with them.

˜Clara Tsang

(Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A Record Breaking Toast to Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit

How do you announce programming for Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit? Well, if you’re in Vegas, you gather more than 300 chefs, sommeliers, and hotel staff members from Bellagio, Caesars Palace, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and Mandalay Bay to break the Guinness World Record for most bottles of wine uncorked simultaneously. The occasion not only announced additional programming for the 6th annual food festival, but also offered the only moment in Hubert Keller’s life when he was nervous to open a bottle of wine. I was also able to catch a rare glimpse of Adam Rapoport’s, Bon Appétit’s Editor in Chief, nervous side when he nearly shattered the record attempt by dropping his bottle moments before the countdown. Fortunately, the wine never met pavement but everyone was obviously doing their best to steady their hands as the air filled with a mix of anticipation and apprehension. Anticipation for the impending record breaking attempt and apprehension because everyone was hoping to avoid becoming part of the small and special group who couldn’t pop their cork in time.

To the outsider, the event came off flawlessly with 308 people, perfectly positioned on Bellagio’s Grand Terrace, successfully uncorking a bottle of wine within the 30 second time limit and breaking the previous record of 252. To the PR insider, months of brainstorms, research, preparation, conference calls, meetings, emails and walkthroughs had finally met their culmination in the single moment when the Guinness adjudicator announced the group’s success. From coordinating the live shots in front of The Fountains with Jason Smith, Adam Rapoport, Bradley Ogden, Jose Andres and Rick Moonen, to the distribution of the MNR, this was one event that will go into my PR record book for having the best bouquet (if you’ve never been around to take in the aroma of 308 bottles of freshly opened Cabernet Sauvignon, I highly recommend it).

˜Claudia Balfe-Taylor

Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appétit receives Guinness World Record Certificate

 *Photo Credit:  Jason Schmidt