Saying Farewell To Bradley Ogden
This Sunday will mark the end of an era in the Las Vegas dining scene, when Bradley Ogden serves its final dinner service at Caesars Palace. But the chef and his friends spent Saturday celebrating nearly a decade that changed the way Las Vegas resorts think about fine dining. Getting to know Bradley Ogden and his family has been one of the great joys of my food writing career, and having the chance to bid the restaurant farewell with him and his friends was an amazing honor. But rather than blather on myself about what the restaurant has meant to our town, I asked some of the other people at the party for their thoughts.
BRYAN OGDEN: It’s bittersweet. It was an unbelievable, iconic restaurant. The real pleasure for me has been seeing the people that came though this kitchen and what they’ve done, and went on to, and progressed with. There’s been an unbelievable amount of talent that has taken the ball and ran with it. And I think we’ve made our mark in Vegas. So it’s his time. It’s ten years. It’s his time, and it’s time to re-invent and move on to the next thing
RICK MOONEN (rm seafood): Bradley Ogden, in my opinion, brought a concentration of talent at a time where Vegas was going through a revolution, around 2003 or 2004. He brought awards, attention and prestige. I thought it was a talent pool, basically, that I stole from, I plucked from. What made me comfortable coming to Las Vegas was what was going on at Bradley Ogden. I was going to restaurants [in Las Vegas] that had big names attached to them, underwhelmed, wondering if I had made the right move. Then when I came and had an experience at Bradley Ogden, course after course, young chef after young chef, bringing out things that were so well-executed and conceptualized, that I knew that something was going on here. And it re-established what I was doing [in Las Vegas] as a correct move.
ADAM SOBEL (Executive Chef at Washington D.C.’s Bourbon Steak): It’s an emotional evening, for sure. I can’t believe the restaurant is shutting down. Because you walk in here, it’s still a gorgeous room, it’s stood the test of time. Ten years later, it’s still modern. It still has a warm sexy feel. I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense actually. It doesn’t make sense.
This is Vegas to me. I would never have come to this city if it wasn’t for this restaurant. And I wouldn’t be where I am without this restaurant.
I look back ten years ago, when we were putting the plans together for this place, and I realize how little I actually knew, and how much of a miracle it was that we had such great success. But it was because of the support of Bradley and Jody and Caesars. They provided us with some structure, and we kind of did our thing. And that was it, Bradley mentored us and guided us.
Yesterday when I walked past the restaurant, I looked at the little trophy case out front. And that James Beard Award, I remember that night. Bradley took Bryan and I up on stage to receive the award. And to this day it’s probably my proudest moment, being associated with this restaurant. It was against all odds. No one thought that a restaurant in Vegas, especially in Vegas, could do something like that. And the thing was, it wasn’t a hollow award. The amount of work and passion and love that went into it was on another level.
GRACE BASCOS (Las Vegas food writer): Bradley was the first push towards celebrity chefdom that wasn’t necessarily a Food Network star, but was actually ingredient and food driven rather than celebrity driven.
They were calling it farm-to-table back then. And it was definitely a way of cooking and eating that was not available at the time. “Is it local?” is the big question now. “Is it local? Are the chickens happy?” That’s what everybody asks now. Before Bradley Ogden nobody knew exactly where stuff was coming from. They had a vague idea. But now they think differently.
TODD WILLIAMS (Assistant Executive Chef, Caesars Palace): Bradley Ogden brought to this hotel, a restaurant that cared more about the quality of the food than about the bottom line. The bottom line is about making money. Bradley came at an era when Caesars Palace was all about loving food. We loved the food, and we taught Caesars Palace about bringing farm-to-table cuisine to Vegas. When we first came here we only had a few purveyors that we were allowed to order from through Caesars Palace. But we opened up the flood gates of bringing in purveyors from all over the country and all over the world. But mostly the country, because we were farm-to-table American cuisine. We brought in purveyors that no one had ever heard of before, like Petaluma free-range chicken, into Caesars Palace. Before that a lot of the produce and things were all done in-house, they were not the same quality. We brought a different quality to Caesars Palace. And that quality has transcended throughout the nine years that it’s been here. And it keeps on growing and getting better.
When the chefs opened this restaurant nine and a half years ago, the Adam Sobels, the Dave Varleys, the Bryan Ogdens, the Gerald Chins, we, as friends, we said to ourselves that we were opening this restaurant not just for us to learn and grow, but we want to teach a lot of people to learn and grow. We want everyone that comes out of our kitchen to become chefs of other restaurants, of other hotels, of other projects throughout the country, opening their own restaurants. And I think the goal that we set forth nine and a half years ago, punk kids out of culinary school, we trained a lot of people. And if you look at the world now, and who runs what hotels, and who’s doing what, every one of us that started this restaurant has trained and learned more, and has grown and gone on to do bigger or better things. And the people we’ve trained have gone on to do bigger and better things.