It’s Chefs’ Week here at Celebrity Insider: our salute to some of the culinary kings and queens of the kitchen who have helped make Las Vegas a major dining destination with a now worldwide recognition. Each day this week, we’ll have two or three star chefs of the Vegas Valley put down their pots and pans to pick up pen and paper to reflect on their profession and why it plays such an important role in our Vegas success story.
Television viewers love star chef Tom Colicchio for his demeanor and observations on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” where he has been head judge for every season of the shows. He’s also the executive producer of “Best New Restaurant” and a featured chef on the “Great Chef” shows. He has an impeccable reputation in the culinary world. And, although he often visits Las Vegas for Craftsteak at MGM Grand, it falls to Matthew Chacho, his executive chef at the Heritage Steak in The Mirage to maintain that impeccable reputation that won Tom the 2010 Outstanding Chef of the Year award from the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
Summertime is all about having memorable moments enjoying great, simple foods
Hey, how’s it going? I’m Matthew Chacho, executive chef at Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Growing up on a farm in Eastern Connecticut, I’ve been around grilling and cooking outdoors my whole life, but it wasn’t until I became a chef that I noticed how many different types of foods you can cook on a grill and how simple preparations can result in delicious flavor profiles.
At Heritage Steak, we focus on cooking entirely over an open flame — from wood-burning ovens to charcoal grills. What many people don’t realize is that this technique is easy to master at home.
One of the most common mistakes is not cooking over high enough heat. Every piece of equipment needs to be extremely hot. This is true when preparing steaks, fish, veggies — you name it. I would say around 450 to 500 degrees is the ideal temperature, regardless of the ingredient. This ensures that your food achieves a nice, even sear and gets those sought-after grill marks. Also, if the temperature is hot enough, then what you are working with will not stick to the grates. There is nothing worse than throwing on some fresh steaks or produce only to have it fall apart in front of your eyes.
Seasoning your grill properly also is important, especially when working with fruits. The sugars in fruits naturally break down and become sticky when exposed to high heat, but a light base such as cooking spray or oil keeps them intact. At Heritage Steak we use a grapeseed oil, but olive oil works just as well. Make sure the grates are clean and brushed down before each use, too
To impress friends and family, try cooking something other than a steak or burger. When we hear the word “grill,” we immediately think of proteins, but cooking up some vegetables and fruits make for delectable side dishes or even main entrees. During peach season, which begins in July, we like to serve a peach jam at the restaurant. Peaches are easy to prepare at home for a simple and sweet dessert or side. Just cut them in half, take the pit out and throw them on the grill with a light base of olive oil. The high heat brings out the juiciness of the peach and intensifies its sweetness.
Our grilled eggplant dish also is a good example of how these techniques translate across all types of foods and tastes. My sous chef Ean Amato and I were talking over menu ideas one day and crafted our grilled eggplant dish, which is currently a secret menu item. First, we take a large cut of eggplant, marinate it in soy sauce and then throw it over the flames to create a lovely char. After the heat, we top it with our house-made chimichurri and serve it with popcorn and roasted nut sauce, which you can make with any nut butter, oil and water. The dish is especially popular with diners who are looking for a hearty and filling vegan dish and not difficult to re-create at home for anyone looking for a vegetable-forward meal.
Summertime is all about having memorable moments with the people around you and enjoying great, simple foods. Grilling is the perfect way to create incredibly delicious meals without having to spend hours in the kitchen. Practice cooking different types of ingredients with high heat and an even base and you will be a master of the grill in no time.