Q: How did the restaurant come in to its current name, Renoir?

A: It was actually Steve Wynn's idea and I immediately agreed. We were going to call it Alex Stratta's but I wasn't too keen on the idea. I love the fact that my food shares the same space with four original Renoir paintings - They make the dining room!

Q: Did you encounter any obstacles when you first opened Renoir?

A: It was difficult at first because the hotel and its purchasing department worked like a big machine using mostly local products in bulk. I had to input new ways of thinking to change the buying process. Now we purchase products from all over the country, however the shipping costs are very high. There's no "magic dust" that makes it all happen: We need the best produce in order to attain the high standards of my food.

Q: Is it safe to say that your cooking relies on the best ingredients available?

A: Yes. Absolutely. I have learned that you "can't go wrong" using the right ingredients combined with excellent techniques.

Q: What are some of the special products you use?

A: Right now we have fresh escargots from Cave Creek Farm in Arizona, fresh hearts of palm from Hawaii, Maine lobsters and prawns from Santa Barbara, California.

Q: Because you have such great resources at The Mirage, is it difficult to maintain your "no waste" philosophy in the kitchen?

A: My cooks are very conscientious and know to prepare and use only what they need for an evening's service. I teach them what I learned from working with my mentor Alain Ducasse: My cooks work with the product from the beginning. For example, if we have lamb on the menu, I'll order the whole lamb from Jameson Farms and we take it from there.

Q: How did you put together your team?

A: I have a great team of cooks. Practically all of them came with me from Mary Elaine's at the Phoenician Resort in Arizona, where I was chef for several years.

Q: What do you look for when hiring new members of the kitchen?

A: A cook's prior experience is less important to me. I look for good instincts and attitude and an ability to listen.

Q: How would you describe you cooking style?

A: Because my family is from Italy, I feel most connected to Italian cuisine. I look to Italy's rich history of simple food that shows off the flavors of the ingredients themselves. I don't add any extra spices to my food. And because I was trained in France and worked with Chef Daniel Boulud when he was at Le Cirque, French techniques also play a strong part in my cooking.

Q: How often do you change your menu?

A: We change the menu six times a year. My favorite seasons are late fall for the game and the root vegetables and early spring with the availability of seafood like flounder and scallops.

Q: Who is your pastry chef?

A: Cristophe lthurritze, a French Basque, is our very talented chef. He came to us after many years with Wolfgang Puck. We do all of our own chocolates and he and I collaborate on creating simple and flavorful desserts without too much elaborate decoration.

Q: What type of input do you have when it comes to the dining room?

A: Steve Wynn has given me full reign in the service department. I believe that service is as important as the food. I have the luxury to be able to focus on both the kitchen and the dining room because I have a kitchen staff I fully trust.

Q: What are some examples of the superior service at Renoir?

A: We are there for the guest no matter what they want. We respond to food requests that don't exist on our menu...from Cornflakes to sushi cravings. We also offer shawls and purse stools, (small stools replicated from Ducasse's Louis XV in Monaco), to rest women's purses, jackets for men and reading glasses. No request is left denied!

Q: What is your favorite kitchen gadget? Why?

A: A Vitamix blender. I make most of my sauces from a concentrated base of puréed vegetables. This blender works best! These purées create flavorful sauces using natural ingredients.

Q: Who would you say is an up and coming chef to keep our eyes on?

A: Brad Thompson, Sous Chef at Cafe Boulud here in New York is one to watch!

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

A: I am one of the five chefs featured in Alain Ducasse's book."L'Atelier of Alain Ducasse: The Artistry of a Master Chef and His Proteges Alain Ducasse John Wiley & Sons" . In this book, we were asked to prepare our own dish from the same ingredients. All of us had worked for Ducasse and it is an honor that I am the only American to be featured in the book!




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