As executive chef of Nu Sanctuary in Town Square, a shopping and dining district south of the Las Vegas Strip, Chef Brian Howard showcases his flair for creating memorable entrees that are a new spin on American food with Asian and European influences. One specialty is Beef Carpaccio with filet, truffle oil, avocado cream, red onion, sriracha and a breaded hard-boiled quail egg. For dessert, try the Nitro Caramel Corn, homemade caramel-covered popcorn with peanuts and given a bath in liquid nitrogen, a combination of sweet and salty. One of nu sanctuary’s signature cocktails is a Strawberry Field featuring freshly-made strawberry syrup and hand-picked basil among Grey Goose and Grand Marnier.
Howard moved to Las Vegas in 2000, and worked as sous chef at some of the finest restaurants in the country including Bouchon, Lutece and Alize. He further developed his culinary expertise working with such chefs as Thomas Keller, Andre Rochat and eventually as the chef de cuisine at CatHouse at the Luxor for Kerry Simon.
Before moving to Las Vegas, Howard attended Macomb Culinary School in Detroit. He began working in the restaurant industry at an early age in Detroit at The Lark, a 5 Mobil star restaurant and at the Royal Park Hotel, a five-star restaurant. He first discovered his culinary identity at the age of nine by learning to cook with his late grandmother, whom he credits for his passion for cooking.
Haute Living: What brought you to nu sanctuary?
Brian Howard: It was an introduction. When I was at Cathouse, Kerry (Simon) introduced me to Gino (LoPinto) and Zaher (Fakih). They came in and ate my food a few times, loved the taste and offered me a job with total control of the menu.
HL: What are your goals for the cuisine you are offering at nu sanctuary?
BH: I’m trying to bring a new way of dining to Town Square with refined food but approachable for everybody. nu sanctuary brings an eclectic mix of international influences combined with high-end cuisine, fresh products and seasonal produce.
HL: I understand you bottle your own water at nu sanctuary?
BH: The water originated from Sweden years ago. Thomas Keller tasted the water in Sweden and was so fascinated with how pure and fresh it tasted. He (Keller) was the first to bring it back to the United States. I got introduced to it by him. I am working with the company and we are even going to market it to other restaurants here so we can get people involved with cleaner, fresher tasting water. There is a big difference when you drink this water and then drink other brands. It changes the taste of food, the taste of wine. It really brings out the flavor of what you are eating and drinking.
HL: How do you contribute to the green movement?
BH: We are recycling, doing the whole green thing. We are recycling our compost to a big farm here in Las Vegas. We are working very closely with farmers out in Pahrump (Nev.) using organic and local products. Chickens are farmed out here. So are all of eggs.
HL: How has the BP oil spill and other factors affected some of the dishes offered at nu sanctuary?
BH: I work very closely with my vendors and purveyors, especially with seafood, to try and get a sense of where everything is coming from. We will never get tuna from Hawaii or Japan. We use more Canadian product. In fact, I am considering taking tuna off the menu. It is one of those things that people love it but I want to do our part in helping to save the environment.
HL: How does your late night menu differ from your dinner menu?
BH: Late night menu is refined street food like bar food gone wild. We want to be that place that the chefs and the industry people want to come to. We served food until 4 or 5 a.m. sometimes 6 a.m. We offer a great mix of small plates and appetizers.
HL: You also offer hookah pipes.
BH: I helped create a good majority of the hookah flavors. We make all of the flavors in-house. I have created chef blends with flavor profiles. We do fresh fruit hookah. When that hookah hits the table, the aromas have everyone turning their heads. It fills the whole room.
HL: What else do you have planned?
BH: We want to offer themed dinners on Monday night like 1930s France or a scene from the movie “The Godfather,” family-style. We keep coming up with new ways to keep reinventing what we do. On Sunday, we are offering jazz and neo soul music for Jazz Sundays from 5 to 8 p.m. We are also featuring Couture Wednesdays were we combine high fashion and nightlife.
HL: What atmosphere did you want to create at nu sanctuary?
BH: It is about life and the progression and we can do to be part of the community. We want to stay fresh and know your name when you come through the door. We want people to come back often. We want to keep it exciting.
HL: How did it affect you and your vision leaving a Strip property and coming to south of the Strip?
BH: It has been great. It is a different clientele but essentially for me, I want to keep it as a local place that welcomes out-of-town company all of the time. I come from a city that had neighborhoods and everybody knows each other. I love it and I love the interaction.