From tossing pizzas at age 15 at a Little Caesar's in suburban Chicago to creating the "perfect" omelette for Henry Kissinger's visits to New York's La Cote Basque, Chef Kerry Simon has earned an international reputation as one of the country's most innovative and respected chefs. A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Simon has worked the line alongside some of the country's most outstanding toques, modern-day masters of the culinary arts such as Andre Soltner of the much beloved Lutece, Jean-Jacques Rachou of La Cote Basque, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean Goerges, Perry Street, Spice Market, and many more.
After graduating from CIA with an intensive, two-year apprenticeship under his belt, Simon moved to New York to work as a vegetable cook and saucier at Rachou's La Cote Basque and La Lavandou, then as a chef de partie at Soltner's Lutece. Feeling isolated from his French mentors, Simon decided to accept a job in London' s fashionable West End working as a personal chef for a prominent local businessman. Still unsure about the direction he should head on American soil, Simon returned to take another personal chef position for New York insurance mogul, Saul Steinberg. Steinberg entertained the crème de la crème of New York society and it was here that Simon made the connections to people who would propel his career.
At this time Simon's contemporaries, American-born yet classically-trained chefs such as Larry Forgione and Charlie Palmer, were starting to "make some noise." Says Simon, "You could feel in the air that something was developing." This something was American cuisine. Eager to participate, he worked for free at Louis Outhier's newly-opened, Lafayette, under Chef Vongerichten. As sous chef, and later, pastry chef at Vongerichten's restaurant, Simon began experimenting with the "new French" cuisine; “Americanized" food that focused more on health and less on heavy creams and butters.
Around the same time, The Plaza Hotel had been interviewing for a chef for the hotel's main dining room, The Edwardian Room. According to Simon, once he met The Plaza's then-owner, venerable Ivana Trump, it was instant karma. He was hired immediately. It was in the Plaza's cavernous kitchen that Simon hosted private chef's tables for Ivana and her friends. Regular guests, who later became friends, included Debbie Harry, Diane Keaton, David Lynch, Nicole Miller and Sting.
When Ivana left the hotel, so did Simon. At the invitation of a friend, Simon traveled to Miami's up-and-coming South Beach area to collaborate on a dinner at the newly-renovated Raleigh Hotel. Simon was asked by the hotel's owner to open the Raleigh Blue Star in 1992. He accepted. After the Blue Star, Simon moved on to the now-defunct Starfish, followed by Max's South Beach, and Mercury. With a built-in web of famous friends, Simon kept a stream of celebrities parading through the restaurant's doors, which earned him a stellar reputation as one of the new breed of "celebrity chefs".
In 1998, Simon rejoined Jean-Georges in a corporate partnership to develop restaurants in Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong, London, and Chicago. Keeping busy, during this time he also partnered at Mercer Kitchen in Manhattan and as executive chef-partner at Prime in Las Vegas. In 2002, Simon launched the flagship of what would become a string of eponymous restaurants; Simon Kitchen & Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was a critical success, selected as one of “America’s Best New Restaurants” by Esquire Magazine. In 2006, SIMON LA opened in the Sofitel Hotel. Other endeavors include The Cathouse at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, Simon Restaurant & Lounge at Palms Place, and, as of June of 2010, SimonPrime Steakhouse and Martini Bar at the Hilton Atlantic City on the Boardwalk.
The active chef’s most recent project, KGB (for Kerry's Gourmet Burgers) is located at Harrah's on the Las Vegas Strip.