Second, as austerity measures go amid a recession, this seems like a strange choice for Wynn Resorts for tightening the bottom line. Wynn and Encore attract the highest-end customers who come to Las Vegas, and now they're basically announcing that the fancy people can't afford great French food anymore? That's a serious idea? Especially given the many, many very expensive restaurants across the Wynncore plain?
Third, Alex has been a major calling card for the property since the beginning and, as Steve Wynn has often said, sometimes you don't calculate the value of an attraction based on how much money it makes but what it adds intangibly to the property and experience. This is Wynn's most prestigious and award-winning (Michelin two-star!!!) restaurant, beloved by foodies and food journalists not just for Alex Stratta's cuisine but also for that gorgeous sunken dining room architecture. It is a transformative experience just to walk in, let alone sit down for dinner.
This just feels like a personality or financial conflict being blamed on the broader economy. Has any other super-duper-expensive Wynn shop or restaurant closed? If the economy was depressing sales, you'd think that would be a problem that would show up in other elements of the business, no? Should we be worried, given this statement, about Wynncore's ability to cater to very wealthy customers? Will we be seeing a decline in other areas of the business?
Perhaps Alex wanted more money and Wynn refused. Or maybe another resort has wooed him with more control or money? Maybe Alex wants to go to New York? Maybe he doesn't want to make vegan food? Maybe Alex, always a pleasant figure in person, is an egotistical jerk?
It's just a sense I have, but I suspect the personal relationship between Stratta and the Wynns deteriorated in some way. When I ate there with Mike E and his posse about a year ago, the chef de cuisine told us that Elaine Wynn had not eaten at the restaurant since the night the Wynn opened when, incidentally, Alex hosted her birthday party. Remember, the "Hello, Dolly!" staircase motif of the place was Elaine's idea; surely she would've enjoyed dining there for that reason alone. Steve Wynn was an increasingly rare presence as well. Wynn only came in when a business associate was with him, the chef said.
The other peculiarity of all this is the timing. They really have to shove their most successful and famous chef out the door in a week? Without even a statement from Wynn about how great Alex is, how much he has brought to the enterprise, how sorry he is to see him go and good luck? If they had been planning this for a while, wouldn't they want to give the mourning food world ample time to have one last meal there? Wouldn't that, in fact, drive sales and make a little scratch?
This feels a lot like another unceremonious dump we covered recently, doesn't it?
[P.S. to Al Mancini et al.: This closure's another reason you should have done an iPhone app, not a book. Just sayin'.]