Why the Vegas hype machine must turn up the head now on its biggest culinary moment
By STEVE FRIESS
Hubert Keller was on the line, enthusiastically dishing about the wonderfulness for him that has been his ride this year with the Bravo reality hit Top Chef. Keller, proprietor of Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay, was a finalist on Top Chef Masters and then appeared again a few weeks ago to help assess the output of the contestants battling it out in the regular season, which is, of course, set here in Vegas.
The results of this exposure have been dramatic for Keller, whose Fleur de Lys opened in 2002 and has generally underperformed compared with both in-house competition from Aureole, Mix and StripSteak and versus the top tier of Guy Savoy, Alex, Picasso and Robuchon.
Keller’s TV exposure, however, has prompted a fairly radical turnaround. The pudding’s proof: Fleur had greater revenues in August 2009, while open five days a week, than it did in August 2008 open seven days a week. The place was packed on my recent visit, and it was library-dead during my two prior meals there.
But something was also missing, so I asked Keller the question I’ve wanted to ask many people as Vegas’ Top Chef moment hits its halfway point: “If so many of your guests are mentioning Top Chef when they come in, how come you don’t have a Top Chef menu?”
The generally exuberant Keller fell silent.
“Uhhh,” long pause, “good question, I guess,” he said sheepishly. “We did a Top Chef night in St. Louis, and it was an enormous success, but I guess, yeah, we still have to fix it up and use it as a tool and do some of the signature dishes that I did on the show, I guess. I guess I don’t want to bore people too much. But yeah, I guess that’s another thing that I could do.”To which, in my mind, all I could think was: WTF?
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