Culinary artistry on display at center

Followers of the arts in Southern Nevada already know that there will be plenty of music, drama and dance on the menu at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. But they may not know that charcuterie, jambalaya and Louisiana-style fried chicken will be on the menu as well.

Food and beverage service at The Smith Center will be provided by Culinary Arts Catering, of which the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas is the parent company. But it will not be a student operation; professional staff including Donovan Campbell, executive chef, and Chris Fava, vice president of food and beverage and chief operating officer, were hired specifically for the center.

There will be a mix of the familiar and the innovative. Las Vegas audiences have come to expect bars at convenient spots in their performance venues and that will be the case at The Smith Center, where Culinary Arts Catering will operate seven bars offering beverages and such snacks as candies, nuts and cookies.

“We have bars everywhere,” said Myron Martin, president and CEO of the center. One is at either end of the spacious main lobby, a likely gathering place before performances and at intermission.

And here’s a new wrinkle: In the 80-seat Mezzanine Lounge, guests will be able to pre-order food before performances and find it ready for them at designated tables at intermission. Or, if they prefer, they can order and consume their food before the performance starts.

“Everything that we serve there will be smaller, like slider sandwiches,” Campbell said. “Everything there is actually cold.” The menu will include charcuterie, dried fruit-and-cheese plates, crudites, baba ghanoush and miniature ciabatta sandwiches, or sliders, including roasted eggplant, turkey club, chicken and provolone, and roast beef, priced at $6 to $12, including tax.

During performances in the center’s 250-seat Cabaret Jazz, the menu will be even more ambitious. While the selection for those seated on Cabaret Jazz’s balcony will be somewhat limited because of the table size there, those seated on the main floor will be able to order from a fairly extensive menu.

“We’re offering a variety of things to keep it in line with the concept,” Campbell said. The menu, which will be offered whenever Cabaret Jazz is open and an hour before — with service during performances, in true cabaret fashion — will include such dishes as candied cracklings flavored with cayenne dust, fried okra, andouille-stuffed hush puppies, jambalaya, a slider sampler, boneless wings, a half-slab of St. Louis-style ribs, a burger and several lush desserts such as s’mores bread pudding with whiskey-bourbon anglaise. The Cabaret Jazz menu will be priced at $6 to $16, again including tax.

Culinary Arts Catering also will provide food to those in the Founders Room and will cater special events at The Smith Center as needed.

Martin said that while “the usual suspects” were approached for proposals for providing the center’s food and beverage service and it “would’ve been easy to hire Company X and mail a check to Los Angeles,” he was pleased that the contract was awarded to a local entity.

Steven Horsford, chief executive officer of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, said that after the academy bid on and was awarded the contract, representatives spent a year planning and recruiting for the operation.

It was important, he said, to bring in seasoned professionals so that a high standard of performance would be met. The center’s food and beverage operation has a dedicated permanent staff of 40, plus a list of 150 to 200 extra-board staff on call as needed.

Fava had been vice president of food and beverage at Mandalay Bay and, most recently, vice president of food and beverage at the MGM Grand in Detroit, while Campbell has worked for Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Las Vegas and was recruited for this new position from a resort in Jamaica.

“He’s known for his creative menus and cuisine,” Horsford said, “and I think people will leave every time impressed with not only the selection and the variety but of course great taste and a value that local residents will really appreciate.

“That was something that was very important to Myron. We want people to come to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, have a phenomenal time and great experience, and feel it is a great value as well.”

The center, Martin said, is “the living room for Las Vegas. This is for us.”

And despite what Mom may have told you, you can eat in this living room.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@ or 702-383-0474.

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