by danny axelrod
This month, Las Vegas is getting some much-deserved attention from the culinary world, as international foodie consortium the Confrèrie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs holds its “Grand Chapitre” conference here, Oct. 26–29, for the first time. The four-day event typically is held in a variety of gastronomically notable cities in the 80 countries where the group exists, and it brings the upper crust of food and wine aficionados together to celebrate fine dining and the people who make it possible. It is a social high-water mark for our city, as hometown food and beverage giants, Larry Ruvo and Michael Severino, lead the Las Vegas chapter of the Chaîne and were instrumental in bringing the Grand Chapitre to Vegas.
Severino couldn’t be more proud of having this illustrious event here.
“That this prestigious organization is having this here is a great statement on how Las Vegas has become one of the culinary meccas of the world,” he said. “From the choice to include some of our best restaurants, to the decision to have one of the dinners at a Frank Gehry-designed building (the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health), it has the essence of what Las Vegas has evolved into concerning culinary arts, food and beverage, and architecture.”
Attendees can look forward to unforgettable dinners specially crafted by the city’s top chefs and sommeliers, day trips behind the scenes of Vegas’ kitchens and hospitality industry, as well as plenty of thrilling Vegas-style recreation.
The background for this illustrious organization can be traced back to13th-century France and its system of guilds, from which the original Chaîne began as the “Goose Roasters,” who oversaw the preparation of poultry and game. Through the centuries, the group attained a royal charter to cultivate and develop culinary art, and high standards of professionalism and quality befitting the splendor of the Royal Table. When the guild system was disbanded during the French Revolution, the Chaîne continued to exist in one shape or another until resurrected in its modern form in 1950.
The organization has always attracted an eclectic group of countless notables from the worlds of food, politics and the arts. Barron Hilton was one of the early members of the Chaîne in Beverly Hills, as was Julia Child and Robert Mondavi. The current pope is a member of the Chaîne, as is film producer Pablo Cruz.
The group and its Grand Chapitre event have a significant philanthropic component, as money raised from a Grand Auction goes toward the Chaîne Foundation. Its goal and purpose is to provide scholarships to deserving culinary and oenological students. From the time it was re- established, the organization has always been dedicated to the promotion of young chefs and sommeliers. That recently has extended to cicerones, craft beverage makers and food banks.
In the United States, the Chaîne has Harold Small as its national president and Ira Falk as its conseiller gastronomique des Etats-Unis, or gastronomic adviser of the United States. Both see Las Vegas as a natural t for the Grand Chapitre, primarily based on the abilities of Ruvo and Severino to highlight the Las Vegas chapter.
“I have had the distinct honor and pleasure of representing the Chaîne at numerous events organized by Mrs. Ruvo and Severino,” said Falk. “I had the understanding from the first one I ever attended how magnificent their programs are, so when I was put in charge of organizing our Grand Chapitre, I immediately reached out to them to see if they would be interested in helping us host.”
Small sees it as a great opportunity to take a snapshot of the organization’s larger purpose in action.
“Coming to Las Vegas gives us an opportunity to allow our members to see firsthand some of the great things going on there, and the benefits that have accrued in terms of the young people who have gone on to great professional careers in various facets of the culinary arts, the hospitality industry and the oenological areas,” he said.
One of the things the organization will be doing is honoring the Chaîne Foundation’s annual donors with a lunch at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where they will tour the College of Hotel Administration with Dean Rowe Shoemaker. They will be presenting the hotel college with scholarship funds for students. They’ll also be supporting the efforts of the Lou Ruvo Center with a dinner that honors the chapter presidents, where a check for a local food bank will be presented.
“We try to do this at every city where we go, and we distribute scholarship funds literally every day of the year through the foundation, which, as so far, has raised and distributed millions of dollars,” said Falk.
“The Chaîne Foundation has now raised $4 million and distributed it for scholarships at various institutions around the country,” added Small. “That’s in addition to the money raised in the local communities that doesn’t even go through the foundation. That includes the philanthropic efforts of Larry and Michael, and the Las Vegas chapter.”
The Chaîne has held regional and national young chef competitions in Las Vegas. The competition for the best young chef was held in Las Vegas 15 months ago.
“We bring the competitions to various centers of culinary excellence each year,” said Small. “Our Young Sommelier competitor, Martin Sheehan-Stross, won in our competition in Sonoma, California, and just won the international competition, and is now the International Young Sommelier of the Year for the world.”
“Las Vegas is more than just gaming and a city of lights, which is what may come immediately to mind for many,” said Falk. “It has become one of the culinary capitals of the world with a tremendous amount of art and entertainment, and with the addition of the Ruvo Center, it is home to a world-class medical center as well. There is so much more in telling the story of Las Vegas — that’s what makes it so appealing as the perfect venue for our organization.”
It’s a story that now has an official chapter dedicated to the city’s place in the culinary world.