Sure, most of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless of course you're talking about food. No longer defined by the greasy all-you-can-guzzle buffets and burger joints, the Strip has become home to some of the world's top chefs and trend-setting restaurants. Joining the ranks is vegan chef Tal Ronnen.
Author of the best-selling vegan cookbook, The Conscious Cook, Ronnen has received the Oprah bump, is currently working on Ellen DeGeneres' forthcoming vegan Los Angeles restaurant, has been instrumental in creating the menu options for the healthy fast-food chain LYFE, and spends one week a month in Vegas to support hotelier Steve Wynn's passion for vegan food. All of Wynn's hotels and restaurants are now serving up vegan menus designed by Ronnen with a variety of mouth-watering options including butternut squash ravioli, Risotto con verdue di stagione (risotto whipped with seasonal vegetables), watermelon gazpacho, crispy yucca fries and, of course, good old fashioned veggie burgers and vegan milkshakes.
OrganicAuthority.com caught up with Chef Ronnen to chat about bringing vegan food to Vegas.
OA: How did the idea to create vegan menus at Steve Wynn's hotels come about?
TR: Mr. Wynn became a vegan in 2010 after watching a video called "Eating." I was introduced to him through Dr. Dean Ornish and that's how I started working on developing the menus at the Wynn and Encore.
OA: How many Wynn restaurants are serving vegan food?
TR: Every restaurant. Everything from casual dining to fine dining. About 22 food outlets in all.
OA: Are any of the restaurants 100 percent vegan or you're just working on vegan menu items in existing restaurants?
TR: There is no one restaurant that is purely vegan. I acutely like the idea of having vegan items at all the restaurants instead of having one restaurant that's just vegan. This way, diners get exposed to exciting vegan items no matter which restaurant they choose to eat at.
OA: Are there plans to open totally vegan restaurants in Vegas?
TR: Not that I know of.
OA: What are some of the best-selling vegan menu items?
TR: There is nowhere in the world where you could find this many vegan options under one roof. Everything from high-end Italian like the agnolotti at Sinatra, to vegan crabcakes and clam chowder at Lakeside. There is even fast food options like the Wynn burger which comes with a chocolate vegan milkshake and fries at many outlets throughout the Wynn. In-room dining fun dishes like vegan nachos with cashew cheese, breakfast options like breakfast burritos, and pancakes. The coffee shop even sells vegan croissant sandwiches with "egg" salad and tempeh "tuna."
OA: YUMM! How has vegan food been embraced in Vegas? Has it exceeded your expectations?
TR: People come to the Wynn from all over the world. Although Vegas is known for indulgence people are appreciating the healthy vegan options and often write and thank the hotel for having these options available to them.
OA: Were you skeptical at all about the idea... Vegas is known for its greasy buffets -- not exactly a foodie destination, let alone a vegan one, right?
TR: Actually Vegas has become one of the best food destinations in the world. All the big name chefs have a restaurant in Vegas. I was a little nervous about working with the four-star chefs at the resort, but they all have embraced the program and we all enjoy working together.
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Images: SimonDoggett, Matt Prescott