Lately, our macaroni and cheese with truffle oil has been one of the biggest sellers. Pot roast, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach: they’re all really popular right now. Diners are also opting for our exceptionally made roast chickens and potpies; this is the way it’s going to go now. I see a trend developing. I think people are going to get more into farmhouse recipes, but I don’t think they’re going to lose sight of getting healthier.
The raw trend is only going to get stronger as it continues to develop into a market that’s more understandable to the common person. I’ve already seen clear signs of this, so I’m creating sauces and recipes accordingly. I’ve been making a salad with kale, adding avocado, lemon, and nuts, such as almonds. It’s super-nutritious, vitamin intensive, and a cancer fighter. That’s also why I’ve been making kale chips. They’re oddly delicious and crunchy, with an intense dark “green” flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture. I simply make a sauce to coat the kale, and put the mixture into a dehydrator. There’s no deep-frying involved, so they make for a great replacement for potato chips.
While I’m also deepening my exploration of sushi, I don’t think we can lose sight of our love for burgers and fries. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Every time I turn around I hear another chef who’s thinking about doing a burger concept. Soon, we’re going to have a zillion burger joints around the world; I’m talking about a lot of big-time chefs who are considering getting into this market. The names would probably surprise you. Little known fact, but there you have it.
I’ve been asked a number of times to do a burger concept restaurant. When I beat Cat Cora on Iron Chef, I did the ultimate hamburger. I took a little bit of smoked applewood bacon sautéed with fresh herbs and chopped up celery leaves, mixed it with ground beef, and put it on a toasted brioche bun with some aged cheddar. To top off it off, I served it with truffle french fries and a vanilla shake. It’s kind of that discreet chic luxury that’s perfect for these times.
Yet, once again, the real deal for me is down-to-earth farmhouse recipes made with organic foods. In times like this, people might start cooking more at home, but I don’t think going out is going to be avoided entirely. People are definitely not going to stop having fun. We all like to have a little more fun when we’re going through these tough situations. We all need entertainment and good times with friends. What I have been noticing is that customers are appreciating and savoring the experience a bit more.
Having said that, we’re kicking off New Year’s Day with a fresh brunch concept at the Palms Place. We’re encouraging people to wear pajamas. Part of the design for this whole concept comes from Rob Wells, George Maloof, and Elizabeth Blau. The ideas, and I have to really thank Rob for many of them, are tremendous. The bartenders are going to be in nurse outfits, intravenously feeding you with any drink you may need after New Year’s Eve. If you’re craving a Bloody Mary, we’ll have an entire buffet devoted to just that, and there will be Bellini and mimosa stations. We’ll have a fruit sushi bar with peanut butter and jelly sushi rolls for kids. Fresh fruits will be carved to order, and we’re also including smoothies, salad bar, peel-and-eat shrimp, a panini bar, a candy bar station, and an anti-oxidant station. It should be incredible.
As a personal aside, I did something really great for Thanksgiving. I’m from Chicago, so I made my way up to Rockford, aka Cheap Trickville, and Rick Nielsen’s guitar vault. He showed me one of his guitars that was played by Jimi Hendrix-a green Stratocaster. We went through just a smidgen of his collection, which is huge. He’s even got a custom-made mandocello, which is pretty wicked. You don’t see a ton of those around. And Criss Angel has made it in to the restaurants a few times, both at the Palms and Cathouse. I really loved his Cirque du Soliel show. When you’re in Vegas, you should check it out. I’m also going to have a new website coming in January. It’ll be about what’s going on in the restaurant and what’s going on in my life. Food wise. Which, of course, is always an adventure.