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Kerry Simon on StarChefs


Simon kitchen and bar (Hard Rock Hotel, 4455 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, NV; 702-693-4440) is the latest canvas for chef/partner Kerry Simon. As with all great artists, Simon’s lust for adventure and creativity combined with incredible opportunities has brought this aspiring rock musician to center stage as a culinary master. Featuring delicious elements and combinations from his illustrious career, Simon creates Signature American cuisine bringing Las Vegas dining to rockstar level.

Kerry Simon’s curiosity for cooking did not start right away. In his late teens, Simon found himself saving up for an electric guitar by working at Little Caesars Pizza restaurant in Chicago. This summer job ignited the spark that turned Simon’s “midnight hours” experimentation with recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook into enrollment at the age of 20 in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. At C.I.A., Simon’s interests in the kitchen began to evolve into elements of surprise and contradiction. An apprenticeship at three-star chef Jean Morels' L'hostellerie Bressane provided monetary support and many hands-on lessons in the basics of French cuisine. Upon graduation Simon packed those lessons along with the rudiments of his culinary intuition and moved to New York City.

Hours of hard work under such culinary luminaries as Jean-Jacques Rachou of La Cote Basque and Andre Soltner of Lutece lead to the position of personal chef for John Addey at Canonbury House in London, England. Following his return to New York, Simon sought out the mentorship of culinary master Louis Outier. This landed him at the former Lafayette restaurant in New York's Drake Hotel. At the Drake, Simon formed a synergistic, creative relationship with another rising culinary star, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Holding both pastry chef and sous chef positions, Simon contributed to the burgeoning “New American” cooking movement and helped Lafayette receive its New York Times four-star rating in 1988, placing Simon among the young culinary elite in 1989 when Ivana Trump asked him to be executive chef at the Edwardian Room in New York's high profile Plaza Hotel. This would make him the youngest executive chef in the history of the hotel.

Celebrities and food critics began to show up to sample Simon's daring creations in the hottest spot to dine in New York City – the chef’s table at the Edwardian Room. What started out as a small dinner for Paige Powell of Interview magazine, her friends and a bag of Dungeness crabs became a reinstated age-old tradition that was booked two months in advance. Not only had this culinary star attracted the likes of David Bowie and Iman, Matt Dillon, Diane Keaton, Debbie Harry and INXS, he also began a trend that renewed the concept of chef's tables in kitchens throughout many fine restaurants in the United States. This critical response to Simon’s special brand of culinary genius was noticed by Rolling Stone. In 1991, the magazine named him one of the top personalities of that year, and this honor gave Simon the unofficial title of “Rock n’ Roll Chef.”

Simon’s “wild food” received a positive response internationally, elevating him from a culinary talent to celebrity chef. At the pinnacle of his tenure at the Plaza Hotel, Simon, always the rebel, chose to leave for adventurous travels in Russia, Europe and the Far East. Upon returning stateside, he ended up poolside at Miami Beach’s Raleigh Hotel in Blue Star thus beginning Simon’s foray into his signature comfort food – simple American fare prepared with the intuition of a master chef. Blue Star was an immediate and enduring success, followed by Starfish, an extension of Blue Star’s menu featuring more from the sea.

In the same sense that New York had won Simon a seat among the culinary elite, Miami cemented his position in this arena. He was not only recognized as a top chef, he was seen as a driving force in the food movement following Blue Star and Starfish with the success of Max’s with restaurateur Dennis Max in 1994. It was here that he received the honor as one of the best new restaurants in the United States by noted cookbook author and culinary journalist John Mariani. Simon’s final Miami venture, Mercury, (which he opened with graphic designer-cum-restaurateur Kenneth Jaworski) drew from every facet of Simon's extensive career and matched the restaurant's polished, adventurous decor.

Simon joined long time friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s organization in 1998 as cuisine and design developer. This new challenge encompassed every phase of restaurant development. He continued to hone his skills by traveling the world developing, opening or overseeing restaurants in Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong, London and Chicago. He finally settled between two major cities, in New York at Mercer Kitchen as partner and in Las Vegas at Prime as executive chef/partner. Though both stages offered Simon a venue for stellar performances, an opportunity came along that cut the shows short. Friends Elizabeth Blau and Peter Morton approached him in 2001 to settle in Las Vegas and open a restaurant bearing his name and showcasing his signature American cuisine. In October of 2002, Simon kitchen and bar opened to extraordinary success.

With his natural cravings for foods such as beets, tuna and yellowtail tartare, sea bass and chicken curry, Simon adds personal passions to his signature menu. Carpaccio of Yellowtail laced with cilantro, mint and citrus vinaigrette, Bluefin Tuna Tartare spun with lemongrass oil and chives and a luscious Roasted Beet Salad with cuts of Laura Chenel goat cheese start the meal with a bang. Follow these with a Spit Roasted Organic Chicken served with a delicious funnel cup filled with Tuscan fries, Tandoori Salmon accented by refreshing mango and earthy black bean salad or the tender 20 oz. Bone-In Ribeye Cowboy Steak and the brilliant Double Cut Colorado Lamb Chops. For more traditional homey cravings, sides feature American favorites such as Macaroni and Cheese and Buttermilk Onion Rings.

With a desire to take on any challenge the culinary world has to offer, Kerry Simon’s passion is a show-stopper, delivering integrity with ingenuity. “If I could invite 180 people to my home every evening and cook for them, this is exactly what it would be like,” he explains. “From the design and décor to the menu and ambiance, everything is very personal to me. I want to create a restaurant that people will really enjoy experiencing and are drawn to time and time again.”