Notes from the Road: Part III–Food Paparazzi

Food Paparazzi

There I was, having coffee with Lesley Balla— the most powerful food gossip in Los Angeles–when she casually asked me what I was doing on Wednesday.

“Want to go to Las Vegas for the Michelin Guide awards party?” she asked.

Ask me to go to a Friday night movie premier and I’ll tell you I’m busy. Offer me a ticket to a great foodie event—any day of the week–and I’ll be in my closet picking out something to wear. I’m just that easy.

Breathless with enthusiasm, I volunteered myself for the road trip and quickly rescheduled my workweek and packed a bag in less than thirty minutes. I couldn’t wait to hit the road.

Meanhile, Back in Vegas

Delayed by our dinner and kitchen tour with pretty boy chef, Ludo Lefebvre, Lesley Balla and I rush through the subterranean world of the Wynn in order to get to the party on time. We struggle to pass the galumphing gamblers and dodge a line of Japanese tourists, all in our high-heeled boots.

We arrive at the Michelin Guide Awards event some thirty minutes late as Jean-Luc, the man behind the Michelin Guide, finishes his congratulatory speech to guidebook winners.

Michelin Awards Party

Balla and I head straight to the bar for a strong glass of fortification once Jean Luc’s speech is complete. With a Manhattan in hand, we are ready to face the crowd.

The lights make guests look like shadows against the round, white couches and sparkling blue water of the Wynn Hotel‘s European pool. There are food stands from Michelin starred Las Vegas restaurants to entice guests. Tables are covered with mason jar rillettes and pate; baskets of French Fries; smoking plates of teriyaki and pristine sushi; a pastry chef offers gelato and fluffy pastry. Past the bright rental lights and boisterous catering chefs, we spy familiar faces of Los Angeles chefs gathered by the deep end of the pool.

Past the deep end

I scan the crowd. Long black hair and midnight black leather catches my eye. “Oh! Look!” I call out to Balla, like a tourist on a jungle safari. “There’s Kerry Simon!” I take a blurry picture of Chef Simon, of SimonLA, without a flash–careful to maintain a certain amount of dignified distance.

As only two food bloggers can, we pull hand held digital cameras from our purses and snap photos of chefs and the food they’re eating.

“Oh! Look! There’s Keller!” Balla says, and scurries away to grab a picture.

The energy of the night quickly increases as I begin to recognize more and more of my favorite chefs. There’s Daniel Boulud (Daniel Boulud Brasserie, cafĂ© Boulud, Bar Boulud), Thomas Keller (Per Se, French Laundry), and Morihiro Onodera of Mori Sushi.

I put down my drink and stand wide-legged like a tripod, in hopes of stilling myself enough to grab a picture without a flash. I point my lens at Ortolon’s Chef/Owner, Christophe Eme, and his actress wife, Jeri Ryan as they talk with Michael Cimarusti of Providence.

Christophe Eme, Jeri Ryan at Michelin Awards

Balla joins me and the two of us snap photo after blurry photo of the group, until I notice a certain unhappy look in Jeri Ryan’s eye. Realizing we look like a pair of food paparazzi, I make a move to introduce myself to the couple, only to discover their extreme dislike for us and our impromptu photo session has already been cemented.

Vegas Michelin Party
From Eater LA: “The only one not smiling: Ortolan chef/owner Christophe Eme. The rest: Wife Jeri Ryan, and the Cimarustis”

After making small talk with the Cimarusti’s and the wonderful and delightful Donoto Poto (Providence’s GM), Balla and I quickly depart for another grouping of power chefs.

Vegas Michelin Party
Celebrating (L to R): Morihiro Onodera (Mori Sushi), Donato Poto (Providence), Jean-Luc Naret (Michelin), Kerry Simon (Simon LA), David Kinch (Manresa), Michael Cimarusti (Providence), Christopher Kostow (Meadowood) from LA Eater

As the champagne flows and back-slapping congratulations are passed from chef to chef, the air around us becomes increasingly electric. Flashes pop as groups of happy chefs pose for pictures. Though there are only a few press people invited to the event, the flash bulbs blaze, making the chefs look like movie stars at a premier.

Boulud at Michelin

Vegas Michelin Party
Josia Citrin reminds Lesley Balla of his two stars

As the food tables are picked over and the event ends, the guests share after party plans. Some will go out for a late night meal. Others will go to
the hotel’s nightclub for dancing.

Fish still life  at Michelin Awards Party

Charcuterie plate at Michelin Awards Party

What to eat at the Michelin awards party

At the after-hours party, I have a couple of glasses of champagne to celebrate. With the lights dimmed, Michael Jackson classics rocking on the loud speakers, and celebrity chefs buzzing around me, things start to get rather fuzzy.

Food Paparazzi at the Michelin Awards Party
Thomas Keller and wife watch as Amy, the Wynn Publicist, gets a photograph with Daniel Boulud

After the Michelin Party

Huber Keller tears up the dance floor
Huber Keller, of Fleur de Lis, tears it up on the dance floor

Michelin Awards After party

Food Woolf and Daniel Boulud
Me and Boulud

Though the phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” was whispered in my ear more than once, I am happy to report that I was nothing but well behaved. Despite the prodding of one French celebrity chef.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. Leah Greenstein
    October 28

    While I love seeing pics of chefs (and am cringing with jealousy that you got to meet Boulud) I have to say those food shots really whet my appetite. Great story, Brooke, I felt like I was on the journey with you!

  2. kartho
    October 30

    Me and Boulud? So jealous.

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