The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas' STK restaurant just announced it had tapped for its executive chef one Stephen Hopcraft, formerly the executive chef of Seablue at MGM Grand and "Top Chef" also-ran. Prior to appearing on the DC season of the show, Hopcraft toiled for many years for Michael Mina's empire in various capacities.
Now he's moving on, just a few months after he had a rather embarrassing stint on the Bravo show during which he was lambasted repeatedly by judges including Seablue neighbor Tom Colicchio of Craftsteak. It's hard to imagine Hopcraft would have surfaced as a prospect for this gig -- he's been running a seafood restaurant for years, remember, and STK is, uh, steak -- without his "Top Chef" exposure.
Hopcraft’s situation fascinated me because I’ve written quite a lot in recent years about the Bravo show’s benefit to Vegas and its restaurants, particularly when the show filmed a season here.
Yet watching Hopcraft under repeated attack by the judges, I wondered: Is all publicity really good? Would Vegas diners at MGM Grand, flanked by eateries from Joël Robuchon, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio (Top Chef’s top judge himself), spend $40 an entrée at the place with that guy who was badmouthed week after week on TV?
Don’t think such thoughts eluded Hopcraft as he endured his public lickings. “I felt like I carried the reputation of not only this restaurant but of the Mina Group and the hotel,” he said, referencing Seablue owner Michael Mina. “That was the part that was really crushing.”
Looks like it was worth it after all. SeaBlue has consistently been popular and well-regarded by critics and diners, and Hopcraft does have a history in steakhouses, as he discussed in my interview in September. So it's probably a good fit. We shall see!