LAS VEGAS — Haute vegan food in Las Vegas? In a town known more for its carnivorous fare, Wynn Las Vegas is setting a gold standard for healthy, innovative cuisine while promoting sustainability and healthy eating. As part of the early May food and wine festival Vegas Uncork’d, sponsored by Bon Appétit magazine, Wynn Las Vegas/Encore hosted the second annual Viva Las Vegan! This is an interactive cooking and tasting event featuring vegan food from top Las Vegas chefs. Hotelier and recent vegan diet convert Steve Wynn co-hosted with celebrity vegan Chef Tal Ronnen.
A dramatic venue at the Encore’s Beethoven suite featured floor to ceiling glass windows, framing the sunny clear skies into the vast, lavish ballroom. Viva Las Vegan! offered visitors the chance to sample vegan dishes in an elegant and educational setting where they could follow along at stations set up throughout the room. A particularly outstanding vegan dish we sampled was Old Bay “Crab” Cakes and Roasted Corn Angnolotti with Oyster Mushrooms. Guests took home recipes to create meat and dairy free specialties such as Pasta and “Clams” by Chef Mark LoRusso of Botero and Tarragon Vinaigrette and Market Chopped Salad by Chef Kim Canteenwalla of Society Cafe. Another memorable dish was “Eel” and Avocado Roll from Chef Jet Tila of Wazuzu.
Veganism is not just for treehuggers and hippies, it is a powerful movement in the quest to cut down on fossil fuel and carbon dioxide use. In fall of 2010, Steve Wynn had an epiphany while facing a giant rare steak at dinner with a recently converted vegan friend whom he thought looked 20 years younger. At that moment, Wynn went cold turkey on animal-based foods and decreed that all Wynn properties would offer special vegan options as part of their permanent menus.
Admittedly a bit out of character for Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegan! is another example of how Las Vegas has become a true international leader in fine dining. We are already looking forward to next year’s event and are inspired to go at least partially vegan in the meantime.
By Kimberlie Shealy and Gordon Wangers