American casinos offer more than great gambling opportunities. Many of them offer gourmet cuisine from some of the best chefs on the continent. Some celebrity chefs, such as Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse, have fared well in the casino restaurant world while others, such as food starlet Paula Deen, have fallen from grace. Here are the highlights of three popular celebrity chefs in the American casino industry.
Paula Deen's Casino Buffet: The Demise
Earlier this summer, a former restaurant employee of Paula Deen sued the celebrity chef for discrimination and harassment. During Deen's deposition, she admitted to using racial slurs against African Americans in the past. She also admitted to cracking racist jokes and condoning pornography.
Little did Deen realize that these admissions would forever tarnish her reputation with her public, thereby ruining her business relationship with Caesars Entertainment, owner of numerous prominent casinos in the U.S.
The Paula Deen Buffet had been operating at four Caesars-owned casinos at the time of the scandal: The Horseshoe in Indiana, Harrah's near Chicago, Harrah's Cherokee in North Carolina, and Harrah's in Tunica, Mississippi. “Never gamble hungry” was the slogan of the Harrah's restaurants, which were designed to resemble Deen's cooking show kitchen and served rich, savory fare similar to the recipes prepared on her famed television show. Interestingly, in spite of Harrahs' severed relationship with Deen, the company's website still features a Paula Deen page with links to her former partner casinos and her recipe for “Gooey Butter Cake.”
Immediately after the Deen scandal went public, Harrah's of Tunica said that they would continue to house the chef's namesake buffet. As the hype snowballed, the Food Network announced it would not renew her contract after June 2013. Although Deen apologized for her remarks via videotape and begged her fans for forgiveness, her apology was not enough to soothe many whose hackles had been raised. As a result, Harrah's of Tunica ultimately changed its mind, deciding to follow the crowd and close down Deen's Tunica buffet.
In an attempt to maintain amicable ties with the celebrity chef, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, owner of the Mississippi Harrah's, released a statement saying that they and Deen had reached the “mutual decision” to conclude the partnership.
Prior to its closing, customers wrote reviews of Deen's Tunica buffet on the urbanspoon.com. Some found it mediocre at best, saying it was “food for the masses” and “highly overrated,” with fare that was “soaking in grease” and “overpriced.” Others called Deen's Tunica buffet “pricey but worth it,” “spectacular,” and a “unique experience.” Overall, the restaurant received a 71 percent positive review. It is interesting to note that before the racism scandal even came about, Deen's cooking had been under fire for its heavy use of butter, cream, and other fatty ingredients.
The Success of Bobby Flay, Casino Restaurateur
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay, in contrast to Deen, has had wild success with his casino restaurant endeavors. Owner of Bobby Flay Steak at the Borgata in Atlantic City and numerous Bobby's Burger Palaces in locations across America, the charismatic chef has managed to keep his nose clean while dabbling his fingers in numerous pies. Here are some of Flay's casino highlights:
Bobby Flay's Bar American at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut
This eatery was inspired by Flay's U.S. travels and features a shrimp bar, choice cut steaks with homemade sauce, and a tasty selection of New England-inspired appetizers and entrees.
Bobby's Burger Palace at Maryland Live! Casino
This Maryland casino restaurant in the city of Hanover features 10 of Flay's signature burgers, fries with the chef's signature sauce, beer battered onion rings, and ice cream treats.
Bobby Flay Steak at the Borgata in Atlantic City
Classified as a “chic, classic” eatery, Flay showcases both surf and turf recipes at the Borgata. The restaurant features a lobster bar and signature Philly strip steak as well as a variety of other steaks and menu items.
“Bam!” Emeril Lagasse's Casino Successes
Emeril Lagasse, known casually as “Emeril,” is another world-famous chef with several successful casino restaurants. To date, Emeril has owned and operated Delmonico at the Venetian, Table 10 and Lagasse's Stadium at the Palazzo, and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand.
Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian
Simple and sophisticated, this gourmet steakhouse features choice beef, pork, and shrimp with authentic New Orleans flavor. The restaurant has won numerous awards, including Las Vegas Life's “Best Steakhouse” award and Esquire Magazine's “Steakhouse of the Year.”
Table 10 at the Palazzo
This restaurant blends sophistication with casual style, offering a “food bar” at which patrons can watch the meat being grilled and large private dining rooms that accommodate up to 65 guests.
Lagasse's Stadium at the Palazzo
This sports lovers' dream bar features game-day food, sports betting, high definition televisions, and flowing beer and liquor. A sports lover himself, the Stadium is Emeril's twist on tailgating.
Emeril's New Orleans Fish House in Las Vegas
This restaurant features the chef's personal spin on Creole cooking with a concentration on seafood and steak. Diners will also find pork and chicken offerings. All meals can be paired with the appropriate Emeril-recommended wines.
Other Gourmet Chefs with Casino Affiliations
B&B Ristorante at the Venetian: This Italian restaurant is serviced by famed chef Mario Batali.
The Border Grill at Mandalay Bay: Authentic Mexican food is served here by chefs Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.
CarneVino at the Palazzo: Italian fare meets the world of steak in this Batali-managed bistro.
Fleur by Hubert Keller at Mandalay: Top chef Hubert Keller artfully presents fare ... across the globe.
Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: Jose Andres, master chef, presents gems ... Spain at this award-winning restaurant.
Michael Mina at the Bellagio: Chef Michael Mina creates seafood masterpieces at this Bellagio restaurant.
Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace: For chef Guy Savoy, food is artistry at this chic bistro.