Julian Serrano at The Bellagio! The (Food) Empire Strikes Back in 2015

Since our first article hit Yahoo! in the olden days of 2011, Julian Serrano hasn’t abandoned his work ethic. First off, his self titled restaurant, Julian Serrano, reigns supreme at the Aria Hotel. But before you think he has but one and only culinary act, 2015 will have him debuting his Italian tapas restaurant, Lago, at the Bellagio.

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For anyone with similar aspirations, what steps did you take to become an award-winning chef? Not just a chef who owns a popular restaurant, and not only a chef who has appeared on television, but someone who impresses the toughest people?

I have a great passion for cooking and I truly enjoy what I do. That is the most important component of my success. It takes hard work and dedication to be a chef and I pay careful attention to ensure that every guest who leaves my restaurants has had an incredible gastronomic experience.

Many people in America/the UK are familiar with tapas now because of food culture and TV. What do you recommend for people who want to eat authentic Spanish food from you and have done the basic plates?

I believe that people go to a tapas restaurant expecting a truly authentic experience, so it’s important that every dish on my menu speaks to tradition. Of course, we have put some fun twists on a few of the menu items, but guests looking for authentic flavors will be pleased to know that they can experience this in every dish at Julian Serrano.

The U.S. edition of Esquire declared you among the best restaurants of 2010. I believe it. You’re very passionate and knowledgeable, and obviously, very good at what you do. Because their critics are men, how do you cook Spanish food differently for men than women? Do women prefer more presentation and fewer calories? Or is there something else?

I’ve noticed that the tapas concept seems to appeal to women even more than men. At Julian Serrano, we often see large groups of women celebrating an occasion with this small plate format. I believe they like this style because it offers smaller portions and they have the ability to try a variety of items. In terms of dish preparation, I cook the same for men and women. I strive to make universally good food that everyone can enjoy.

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For your next restaurant at the Bellagio in 2015, how did you acquire the knowledge to create Italian food that will please both Italian enthusiasts and people who like the American-ish (some say “ruined”) version of Italian food? In Las Vegas, you have both Europeans and people from small town USA coming to your restaurant, and you also now compete with the Giada restaurant and Mario Batali.

We will prepare traditional small plates just like they do in Italy with a few twists. Everyone loves traditional Italian food, so I am confident that this approach will appeal to both our domestic and international guests.

Your restaurant is going to “explore a new take on social dining.” What does this mean? An intimate setting, or that we can invite more people to eat with us?

Lago will invite groups of all sizes to share great food, while enjoying their company and conversation. The tapas style allows guests to tailor their experience to fit their time constraints, so guests can pop in for a quick meal or spend hours eating, drinking and socializing.

What have you learned about creating a successful business in running your restaurants that also applies to non-food industry ventures?

The key to any successful business is consistency. Guests need to know that they can expect to have the same quality experience every time they visit a restaurant or business and the way to guarantee this is to be sure to hire and train a good, trusted staff.

When you aren’t creating beautiful food, what “embarrassingly un-gourmet” caloric food do you like to eat? I like flavored popcorn and Mochi ice cream, though I admit those things are bad for me!

I’m a chef so I have to admit that I love all kinds of food including food that isn’t that healthy! I also enjoy popcorn and Mochi ice cream, but French fries are one of my go-to favorites.

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