Chef Wesley Holton
Daniel Boulud Brasserie | Las Vegas
Wesley Holton first culinary pursuits were domestic: he started cooking for his family to help his mother. What started as an altruistic effort to pitch in around the house developed into a passion and eventually – with or without his say-so – a career. Watching her son’s culinary curiosity and talent increase, Holton’s mom decided to give him a surprise gift and enrolled him in the Schoolcraft College in Michigan. Despite his initial hesitation, Holton lapped up the training and hasn’t looked back since.
Starting out in a local country club set the stage for Holton’s interest in the finer side of the restaurant business; soon thereafter Holton packed his bags and made the move to the Big Apple to prove his mettle. In 2002 Holton scored a line cook position at Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne. Over the course of the next three years, Holton worked his way up the line at Restaurant Daniel eventually becoming a sous chef. It was at Daniel that the Holton-family-cook-cum-Daniel-Boulud-protégé honed his skills, from technique to kitchen and stress management. In 2006, the ever-expanding Boulud empire gave Holton the opportunity to move south to Palm Beach, Florida to help open Café Boulud as first sous chef.
After a successful start with Café Boulud and five years of Boulud training under his belt, Holton was named executive chef of Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Vegas. Holton’s modern American twists on French classics, not to mention his deft technique, eye for beautiful presentation, and bold but balanced use of flavors, brings all the elements of a French brasserie in Las Vegas together to make sense.
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Antoinette F. Bruno: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Wesley Holton: Cooking with mom. My mom had just started her interior decorating business, and I helped her in the kitchen. I would come home from school and watch cooking shows and try to emulate what they did.
AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
WH: DB Bistro Moderne, Daniel, Café Boulud.
AB: Do you hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
AB: Who are some of your mentors?
WH: Daniel Boulud.
AB: Do you take stagiers in your kitchen?
WH: We absolutely take stages – often students from University of Las Vegas.
AB: What qualities do you look for in a cook when hiring them for your kitchen?
WH: Attitude – someone with a good attitude can be trained to do anything.
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
WH: They should know what they are getting themselves into before they start. Know what sacrifices you'll make. You’ll have to juggle your family, friends, and work. It's a big, long, 10-year commitment.
AB: What ingredient do you feel is underappreciated or underutilized?
WH: English peas, I could eat them all day long, especially with bacon and onions.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
WH: Brown butter and thyme, citrus and avocado, pickled vegetables and roasted meats.
AB: What’s your most indispensible kitchen tool?
WH: Japanese mandolin.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
WH: Foie Gras…A Passion by Michael Ginor.
AB: Where do you like to go for culinary travel? Why?
WH: France. I haven't been there. That's where it all began. Their level of respect for food is far superior to what we have here.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants, off the beaten path, in your city?
WH: Sen of Japan for sushi and T.C.’s Rib Crib for collard greens and ribs.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
WH: Beef, beef, beef. Everyone wants a steak when they come here.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
WH: Some people get caught up on what the food looks like and not what it tastes like. Don't lose sight of the big picture. Some people like to scrutinize chefs too much, looking for mistakes instead of looking for what's right. They get so stuffy, they don't allow themselves to have a good time.
AB: Which person in history would you most like to cook for?
WH: Elvis…and Jimi Hendrix!
AB: Who would you most like to cook for you?
WH: Joel Robuchon.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be doing?
WH: Probably making a lot of money, doing finance.
AB: What’s next for you?
WH: I can't say. It's top-secret. I hope one day to own my own place. I'd like to go back home to Detroit to be with my family.
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