Bellagio Spa Tower
3600 Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Antoinette Bruno: Why did you
start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Martin Heierling: I enjoyed watching the Love Boat on TV and
I fell in love with the idea of traveling around the world as a cook
on a boat. And I did just that. I went to work for the Saudi Arabian
AB: You completed a three-year apprenticeship in Heidelberg, Germany
as your initial education in the culinary field. How do you feel
this experience helped develop your culinary skills compared to
attending a school instead? Would you recommend one over the other
to aspiring chefs today?
MH: I’m a tradesman.
Culinary school is not academic training. I think the old-fashioned
European way of a trades program is the only way to go. It teaches
you not only the skills but also how to work with other people.
They are the skills you need for life. I live off the cooking schools.
They supply me great talent – just different.
AB: Can you talk about working with Chef Gray Kunz?
MH: From Gray I learned absolute professionalism, discipline, standards
and structure. I learned to ask why. Everything has a reason. You
need to know the details.
AB: Your approach to cooking appears to be ingredient-driven dishes,
eschewing overwrought drama for elegant simplicity. How has this
philosophy worked itself into the menu at Sensi?
MH: I don’t do too much with the ingredients – if you
have great ingredients, why muck around with it? Presentation is
a different story. That I like to play around with. I don’t
want to come up with the craziest things. It’s not what I’m
about or enjoy.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like?
MH: Candlenuts I use in all
my spice paste. Tamarind in sauces – it has a naturally acidic,
sour flavor. I use tamarind water as a base for everything. Also
ginger, there’s so much to do with it, and pandan leaves –
they have a nutty flavor.
AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
MH: My Gray Kunz spoon – it’s sentimental.
AB: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created
or use in an unusual way?
MH: Savory-filled cones. It developed from my pastry training. It’s
not a tuille like Keller does, but an ice cream waffle cone.
AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for
a potential new line cook?
MH: When are you going to do a stage? That is a requirement. How
do you think you did today (during their trail)?
AB: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
MH: Be humble, find somebody that takes an interest in you. If you
are lucky enough to find someone who takes interest in you, make
sure you give back.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
MH: David Thompson’s
book on Thai
Cooking. Also Tetsuya Wakuda. I think he’s amazing. I
love this attention to detail, his philosophy in making every plate.
His book is great.
AB: What cities do you like for culinary travel?
MH: China – Shanghai is the new center of the Far East. Singapore
is an amazing culinary center. Malaysia, Indonesia, Indian street
AB: What are your favorite restaurants in your city?
MH: Joyful House – for traditional Cantonese - it’s
open until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5-10 years?
MH: My next step is pursuing
a partnership with MGM. A new project, where I’m the owner/partner.
I want to be a multi-unit operator with 2-3 units. Not too big.
Another high-volume restaurant and a fine dining restaurant.
SENSI | Las Vegas
Martin Heierling’s culinary wanderlust
has taken him across the globe and back again. Born in Heidelberg, Germany,
he grew up in Auckland, New Zealand and identified early on the culinary
arts as his calling. Heierling returned to Germany to apprentice in top
kitchens. Positions in Zurich, St. Moritz and Auckland followed, punctuated
by a tour in the German Navy, and even a stint cooking aboard the Royal
Yacht Lady Moura. Hungry for a four-star cooking experience in New York,
he contacted Gray Kunz at Lespinasse, who not only hired the
young cook, but also became his most influential mentor. Most recently,
Heierling has ventured to Las Vegas to open Sensi at the Bellagio,
a restaurant most suited to his background with its menu that represents
an international crossroads.
Halibut with Pickled Onions, Baby Chorogi ,
Chef Martin Heierling of Sensi
at the Bellagio Resort & Casino
– Las Vegas, NV
Adapted by Starchefs.com
Chorogi, also known as Chinese or Japanese artichoke, is a native plant
of China and Japan. It has a hairy surface and sweet, nutty flavor. Chorogi
are hard to come by in the United States but can be found in specialty
Asian markets. When purchased, chorogi should be firm and white, and can
be refrigerated in a plastic bag for a week.
Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 medium red onion, peeled
- 2 cups distilled vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 cups Barolo red wine
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon brandy
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Cayenne pepper to taste
- 1 Tablespoon cold butter, diced
- ½ cup smoked speck lardons, blanched
- ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup Yukon Gold potato, diced and blanched
- 1 cup baby chorogi
- ½ cup leek cut, roughly chopped
- Salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
- 1 pound halibut cheeks, cleaned
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 pat cold butter, cubed
- ½ cup heirloom tomato, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Shaved raw garlic
- Thyme buds
For Pickled Onion:
Finely shave the onion using a mandoline. Pour vinegar and sugar into
a sauce pot, bring to a boil, and add the spices. Drop the shaved onion
into the hot pickling liquid, bring back to a boil and remove from heat.
Allow to cool down in the liquid and set aside.
For Barolo Reduction:
Reduce the wine to a ½ cup. Balance the reduction with sugar, brandy,
cayenne and black pepper. Whisk in cold butter until thick and shiny.
Start rendering the blanched speck lardons in a cold sauté pan
over medium - heat until the lard has drawn out. Increase the heat to
high and add diced onion together with potatoes and chorogi. Caramellize
evenly in the pan and add the leek at the end. Season with salt, pepper,
For Halibut Cheeks:
Season the halibut with salt and pepper and dust with flour. Heat olive
oil in a heavy pan until very hot and roast the halibut, turning often.
Cook to medium and finish in the pan with the thyme buds and cold butter,
turning it into a beurre noisette.
Mix the chopped heirloom tomatoes with the olive oil, sea salt, and a
few slices of raw garlic, making it into small salad.
To Assemble and Serve:
Spoon the baby chorogi onto the center of the plate and set the roasted
halilbut cheeks on top. Drizzle the Barolo reduction around the plate
and garnish the halibut with the heirloom tomato salad and pickled onions.
Sprinkle with fresh thyme buds and serve.