Chef Matt Piekarski — A Celebrity Chef among Celebrities

photo credit: Denise Truscello

One might think that being the executive chef for Eva Longoria Parker’s Las Vegas steakhouse, Beso, and working closely with celebrity chef Todd English and Isaac Carter might be intimidating. But when it is chef Matt Piekarski, it is a perfect fit to create a memorable dining experience.

Known for his talent and professionalism, Piekarski has received acclaim for combining a traditional steakhouse with Longoria Parker’s signature Latin touches. Piekarski opened Stack steakhouse at The Mirage and several restaurants inside mega-resorts including Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas.

Studying under chefs such as Eric Klein of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining, Jason Harrison at Bellagio, and Carter, regional executive chef for English, Piekarski brings his own style, passion and creativity to a very competitive field.

Haute Living: What was different for you creating the menu for Beso involving a well-known celebrity, Eva Longoria Parker, and a dining establishment that would become a club after the dinner crowd?

Matt Piekarski: Working with Todd (English), it flowed. Yes, Beso is a traditional steakhouse with a Latin flare and Eva (Longoria Parker) really understands food. For example, in some of our dishes, we use Mulatta chilies. Well, we were creating these dishes, waiting for the chilies to be delivered and we used a different type of chili. When Eva tasted the dish, she immediately knew we didn’t use the Mulatta chili. Fortunately, 30 pounds had just been delivered but this shows she has a refined palate and knows her food. I love working with her. She really appreciates food and she is so down to earth. We really work very well together and the whole staff really enjoys it.

HL: What specialties do you offer in Las Vegas?

MP: The slow braised short rib; chili rubbed skirt steak; crispy fried Dungeness crab cake. Eva makes the most incredible tortilla soup and guacamole. For the side, our herb Beso fries is the best. Of course, we have great steaks.

HL: How is the menu different at night when the restaurant opens as a club?

MP: Throughout the evening, we are making that transition. We subtly change the music from mellow to more upbeat. However, we don’t offer any food when during the nightclub hours.

HL: What cuisines do you specialize in?

MP: Steakhouse since in my heart I am a steakhouse guy. My mentor specialized in Asian even though he was French. I learned many different styles and will try different things. When I first began, I created everything from a fish fry to menus for supper clubs. How I cook is hitting the right note with the food, much like a musician.

HL: Other than your own, what is your favorite restaurant in Las Vegas?

MP: Has to be Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante in the Venetian. The food is outstanding. I know he takes the time and effort to really prepare his meals. He also takes chances with his food the other restaurants are afraid to do. He offers lamb brain sausage. Where else are you going to find that on the menu? I really enjoy trying his menu.

HL: Do you cook at home?

MP: Yes, I love to cook. I always cook family style. I love to grill and make a pizza on the grill. I also make salad with grilled meat. One of favorites is using flat bread and topping it with an antipasto with a little bit of cheese.

HL: What is your favorite cuisine?

MP: Being from Wisconsin and Polish, I love Polish food like potato and cheese pierogi, blood sausage, wild mushroom soup, stuffed cabbage and apple butter so when I go there, I really indulge. You don’t find blood sausage here in Las Vegas.

HL: How do you feel about the celebrity status of chefs today?

MP: It really propagates our industry. Emeril (Lagassee) really started the trend along with Wolfgang (Puck). It helps the industry; it highlights our accomplishments and really educates the diners. Look at the Food Channel with shows like Top Chef. Food shows are really popular now. I see all of this as good.

HL: Since Beso is located in CityCenter, who are your customers — locals or tourists?

MP: We are banking on the tourist crowd since we are at CityCenter. We have been open for six months and our local business has been steady and has doubled. Locals are finding us by word of mouth. Also, with the nightclub, locals are discovering we offer dinner as well. Local business is picking up along with our tourists.

HL: Since you have a large tourist customer base, what do you notice about international tourists?

MP: Tourists want what they have at home. Many are uncomfortable trying new things. But since we offer several traditional steakhouse menu items, many tourists from abroad do try those dishes. Obviously, our Latin tourists love Eva’s dishes and her special touch. CityCenter is a good blend of tourists from here and around the world.