Top of the Palms Casino Resort
4321 W. Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV 89103
Amy Tarr: Who or what inspired
you to become a chef?
Jacques Van Staden: I remember
cooking with my mother vividly. I’d stand on a little chair
making meatballs and pastas.
AT: Having attended culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine
in Maryland, would you recommend culinary school to aspiring chefs
JVS: It’s nice to have
it but not necessary. It’s also good to have some experience.
I have kids who come out of school and they are useless. My top
kids are 20-21 and left school half way through. They came here
and said, “Chef, I’ve learned more from you in 3 days.”
Give me great attitude, no experience, and I’ll turn you into
AT: Can you talk about your mentors?
JVS: My primary mentor was Jean Louis Palladin – the way he
screamed and drilled it into us. He was honestly the person who
got me to the point where I understand food. Food talks back to
me. It tells me how it wants to be cooked and cut and handled. God,
it was the toughest job of my life working under that man! Nobody
was like Jean Louis. After you work with Jean Louis, you are untouchable.
Nothing can faze you. I’ll never trade it for anything in
the world. Never.
AT: How has your cooking evolved from Jean Louis?
JVS: I hate the ordinary. So many people stay within the box and
stick to things they feel comfortable with. This is Las Vegas –
as much as it’s changed even in 5 years, still you cannot
give sardines away! So what you need to do with food here is to
use ingredients that are both familiar and unfamiliar and use them
at the same time. Like tuna tartare with watermelon. What helps,
too, is the service. They call me the “golden goose”
here! If I make something, they can sell it. The only challenge
they could not sell was the sardines.
AT: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
JVS: My whole life I wanted to be like a Picasso or Michelangelo,
but cooking is a really a business. You can be a starving artist,
but a starving chef? Always treat food with respect. Even if you
do staff meal you’ve got to respect the food, you have to
cook with pride and joy. But there is a line with food. The more
you touch the food, you take away its simplicity and you make it
into something else. It’s like having 20 facelifts. A lot
of people forget the real truth about what the dish is about.
AT: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like?
JVS: Crunchy stuff! America’s
favorite food is crunchy stuff. With foie I use rice crackers.
With caviar I use crispy masagu - it looks like a dried
rice ball. It’s the same size as the caviar, so I serve it
on top of the caviar. Also dana dhal – dried lentils,
and crunchy chor (crispy chickpeas).
AT: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
JVS: A tilting skillet or brazier–
it’s so much easier to sauté or reduce things in. They
keep the heat so whatever you make, you can do a bunch of stuff
at one time. When you make a tagine it sears the meat perfectly,
everything cooks at the same time, equally. For osso buco
– I can put in 4 or 5 pieces – don’t have to mix
and match flavors.
AT: Is there a culinary technique that you have either created
or use in an unusual way?
JVS: I like to wrap fish in plastic and roll it to make medallions.
Cooking is like poetry. There’s always a thief. We steal from
each other, but how well do you apply it? I always incorporate texture,
crunchiness. That’s what really sets it apart from your ordinary
AT: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for
a potential new line cook?
JVS: Are you sure you want to do this? Why do you want to get into
this business? From the answer I can tell immediately whether this
guy is going to make it. If they say cooking is fun, I know they
are not going to make it. It’s fun to cook for your friends.
Cooking is hell. If you can survive hell, then it becomes fun again.
The failure rate of restaurants is 75% - that’s the failure
rate of culinary students as well. It takes 10-15 years of suffering
just getting there. It’s your attitude and passion that gets
AT: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
JVS: Make sure you are passionate about this. Passion conquers all
in this industry. If you do it for the money and the fame, there
are much easier ways to get there.
AT: What are your favorite cookbooks?
JVS: Jean Louis’ book
from Gray Kunz. Thomas Keller’s French
Laundry cookbook for the techniques. Daniel
Boulud’s cookbooks. Alain
Ducasse with Frederick Labon’s pastry cookbook. El
Bulli is phenomenal. Jean-Georges
Vongerichten’s books -there’s simplicity but it’s
also very intricate. Marco
Pierre White– growing up in South Africa, it was the first
cookbook I ever got. I wanted to work for him so bad!
AT: What are your favorite restaurants in your city?
JVS: March Bacchus for lunch, brunch or dinner. It’s run by
this couple and they are phenomenal – they do very simple
stuff. You feel like you’re in France. It’s near the
lake, it’s gorgeous. You’d never know you were in Las
Vegas. Also Tuscany Grill – it’s an Italian place, has
a huge menu, but good food.
AT: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry
JVS: With new techniques and equipment, the trend is you’ve
got to be different than the next person. I believe you can be different.
Little gadgets are also trendy, like how Michael Mina uses the coffee
press to do the broth of the shellfish and filter out the shells.
AT: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
JVS: Our next place is going
to be huge, a new trendsetter. Our goal is open 25 of this concept
in the next five years, all over the country. It will be very casual,
very sexy. I’m getting to the point where I’m businessman
and a chef. I want to take our concepts and put them out there.
At some point you need to make a decision how much do you want to
be in the kitchen. My forte is concept development. I love to do
Jacques Van Staden
ALIZÉ | Las Vegas
South African-born Jacques Van Staden sold his
car after graduating from high school in order to pay the airfare to the
US and pursue a culinary career. He boasts a stellar pedigree, having
trained with legendary chefs Jean Louis Palladin, Gray Kunz, and Michel
Richard before teaming up with Las Vegas star chef André Rochat.
Palladin’s influence on Van Staden is unmistakable – both
on the plate and in his demeanor. Jacques’ vivacious spirit is infectious
and distinctly reminiscent of Palladin’s. And like the late great
chef, Van Staden listens to food, thoughtfully contemplating how it wants
to be cooked, cut and handled. “Food needs true love, passionate
love,” Van Staden says. And we just can’t get enough of his
Roasted Muscovy Duck Breast with Almond Toast,
Spice Roasted Duck Leg
Chef Jacques Van Staden of Alizé at the Top of the Palms
– Las Vegas, NV
Adapted by StarChefs.com
Yield: 4 Servings
- Scraps from 4 whole duck bodies
- 2 Spanish onions, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 carrot, diced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 5 cups red wine
- 1 gallon chicken stock
- 2 cups demi-glace
- 1 cup Minus 8 vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Roasted Duck Legs:
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon 5-spice powder
- 4 duck legs
- 4 shallots, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 pat butter
- 1 Tablespoon fines herbes
- 2 whole ducks, quartered
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 rhubarb stalks
- 2 cups grenadine
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 cups watercress leaves
- ½ cup friseé
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup fava beans, cooked and chopped
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons fines herbes
- 4 slices brioche
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 Tablespoon 5-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup sliced almonds, broken up
- 1 pat butter
- 2 Tablespoons ginger, peeled and diced
- 2 Tablespoons rock salt
For Duck Jus:
In a hot stock pot sauté the duck scraps until dark brown, without
burning. Add onions and garlic, and caramelize. Then add tomatoes and
carrots, cooking to brown. Deglaze with the red wine, add cinnamon and
thyme, and reduce by half. Cover the duck scraps with the chicken stock
and demi-glace, and simmer over very low heat for 3 hours. Strain the
bones through a china cap into another pot, add Minus 8 vinegar and reduce
the sauce to a syrup consistency. Strain the sauce through a fine chinoise.
Season to taste with ground black pepper, and set aside until ready to
For Duck Legs:
Set oven to 375° F. Using a mortar and pestle, ground together the
salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, sugar, bay leaves, cayenne, garlic powder,
onion powder and 5-spice and sift into a mixing bowl. Rub the duck legs
all over with the spice mixture and make sure meat is well covered with
the spices. Place the legs in a small roasting pan and cook in oven for
30 minutes, or until duck legs are tender and the skin is crispy.
Once the legs are cooked, remove and let sit for a couple of minutes.
Pick meat off the bone and chop up. Heat the shallots in a sauté
pan with sugar to caramelize them. Sweat the caramelized shallots in a
pan with a little butter, add the chopped duck leg, and season with remaining
spice mixture. Once the duck leg is hot, mix in the fines herbes, remove
from heat, and set aside for assembly and serving.
For Duck Breast:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Using a boning knife, remove duck breasts
and legs from carcasses and place breasts and legs in separate containers.
Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper and cook in a medium-hot
pan, skin side down first for about 8-10 minutes until the skin is crispy.
When skin is crispy, turn over and place in the oven for 4 minutes to
finish cooking. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes. Slice the
duck breast across the grain in thin slices and pat dry any excess blood.
Set aside for assembly and serving.
For Braised Rhubarb:
Preheat oven to 300° F. Peel the "stringy" outer skin off
the rhubarb and cut both ends. Place rhubarb in a deep baking pan, pour
grenadine over it and sprinkle with sugar. Cook in oven for 10 minutes
or until tender. Once the rhubarb has cooled down, cut lengthwise in about
½-inch thick slices to form ribbon-like strips. To prepare a syrup
for the rhubarb, use the grenadine the rhubarb was cooked in, strain and
reduce in a small pot until a syrup consistency. Chill and place in squeeze
bottle for assembly and serving.
For Watercress Salad:
Clean watercress and friseé by rinsing under cold water and spinning
in a salad spinner. Remove from spinner, toss with olive oil, lemon juice,
and salt, and set aside for assembly and serving.
For Fava Beans:
Chop up fava beans into small pieces and toss with olive oil. Add fines
herbes to the fava beans, toss, and reserve for assembly and serving.
For Almond Toast:
Set oven to 300° F. Slice brioche about 4-inches long and 2-inches
wide. In a shallow dish, whisk egg, milk, 5-spice and sugar together.
Pour almond slices into a shallow, flat dish. Dip bread into egg mixture,
then into the almond slices, pressing slightly to coat each side. Heat
a sauté pan to medium heat, add butter, and brown brioche on one
side. Flip over and finish cooking in oven for 5-10 minutes.
To Assemble and Serve:
Place the cut rhubarb ribbon on the inside of a 3-inch mold so it is lined
neatly. Place the warm duck leg mixture in the ring so that the rhubarb
is on the outside. Press down so that the mixture is firm. Once the leg
mixture is tight in the mold, spoon the fava beans over the leg mixture
and spread out so that the beans cover the top of the mixture. Carefully
remove the ring mold. The chopped duck legs should be wrapped with the
rhubarb and covered on top with the fava beans. Place the browned almond
toast on one side of plate, and arrange the watercress and frisee mix
neatly on top of the toast. Lay out the sliced duck breast over the greens
and toast and sprinkle the diced ginger and rock salt over the duck breast.
Place five dollops of the reduced grenadine syrup around the duck leg.
Spoon the duck jus around the duck breast and serve