weather icon Partly Cloudy

Hubert Keller explores Las Vegas dining on new season of PBS show

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

Raised in Alsace, France, Hubert Keller trained in the kitchens of legendary chefs such as Paul Haeberlin, Gaston Lenotre, Paul Bocuse and Roger Vergé in France and South America before Vergé sent him to San Francisco to open Sutter 500 in 1982. Four years later, he became a partner in San Francisco’s Fleur de Lys, where casino executive William Richardson became a frequent guest.

In 2004, Richardson asked Keller to bring Fleur de Lys to Mandalay Bay, and tapped the chef to helm a hamburger concept in Mandalay Place that became known as Burger Bar. And about a dozen years ago, Keller and his wife, Chantal, made Las Vegas their primary residence. Fleur de Lys has evolved into the more casual Fleur by Hubert Keller, which the Kellers operate along with Burger Bar.

In addition to numerous TV appearances on ABC, Travel Channel, Food Network and elsewhere, Keller is the star of his own PBS series, “Hubert Keller: Secrets of a Chef.” What began as a kitchen-based cooking show has evolved into a travel program in which the chef tours his native Alsace and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The sixth season, which premieres on Vegas PBS at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, has been dubbed #LovinLasVegas, and was shot exclusively in the Las Vegas Valley. Over nine episodes, Keller and a series of guests (including this author) explore 20 restaurants, kitchens and lounges on and off the Strip.

We spoke with Keller recently about the show, his time in Las Vegas and his thoughts on the local culinary scene.

Review-Journal: How did you view Las Vegas when you were opening Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar, 16 years ago? Did you ever think you would make this your home?

Hubert Keller: I never knew that one day it would be my permanent home. That I didn’t know.

But it’s kind of funny, because a few years before (opening my restaurants here), I had created a little club among chefs from San Francisco called LV7. We were seven chefs and we used to go to Vegas. So we had our little club and we used to go every four months or so, and we loved it. And at the same time, I did notice that Vegas was really becoming something. It reminded me, in a different scale, of when I moved to San Francisco in 1982. I could feel something was going to happen.

How many nights a week do you eat out, versus the number you cook at home?

I guess it depends on how many days of the week I’m at (my) restaurant. But even between eating at home and eating at my restaurant, I think I eat out just as much.

For me and Chantal, we’ve always done it. When we had Fleur de Lys in San Francisco, we never, ever ate at home — probably two times a year. And that has never left us. That’s another amazing reason we love to be in Vegas, because there’s constantly something new. It’s like a playground that never stops.

Dining is what I do for a living, but it’s also a hobby. Sometimes it disturbs me when you hear some chefs saying “Oh, I’m around that kind of food — lobster and caviar and all that stuff — the whole week. So when I have my day off I’m going to eat a greasy burger somewhere.” I could never say that. Because how can you get bored when you do something good?

Do you prefer to explore neighborhood restaurants or the Strip?

For a while I think I was mostly exploring the Strip. But lately, for the last two or three years, we are going off the Strip more.

If you were to take the hotels out of the equation, how do you think Las Vegas compares as a food city to others?

Well if you were to take the hotels and casinos completely out of the equation, you’re taking away a big part of the experience of coming and dining in Las Vegas. I see it more as a combination of both. For many years it was only casinos. And that’s exciting, because you don’t have that experience in many other cities. Not every city has these expensive restaurants — and when I say expensive, I don’t mean to dine there, but the expense of building these restaurants, and putting beautiful concepts together. And that makes Las Vegas really exciting.

But what was missing was going off the Strip and having an experience as well. Maybe $8 million or $10 million wasn’t spent on the dining room. But somebody is the personality behind the restaurant, and you can feel it from the moment you walk in.

Having only that, maybe it wouldn’t be enough to compete with other cities. I think for Las Vegas to compete with other great restaurant cities, you need both.

Did you discover anything new about Las Vegas while filming this season of your show?

Once was one restaurant, which I think you introduced me to. That to me was amazing cuisine with which I wasn’t that familiar, so that was an amazing addition.

The other, which I knew about and had seen before, is what (The Venetian) is doing for banquets. The viewer would not usually have the chance to see that. I think that was interesting to show what the volume can be, and how in Las Vegas you can feed such a large group of people, and the level of quality at which it’s executed. I wanted to show that (contrast) from the small neighborhood restaurants, up to feeding 5,000 or 15,000 (at banquets). Because it’s not just mass feeding, the way things are prepared. And I don’t know if people ever get the chance to see the back of the house where they (do) the banquets. So when we filmed it, I saw it and I thought it’s going to look great. … It’s pretty breathtaking.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Making lobster and avocado flatbread at Vanderpump Cocktail Garden in Las Vegas
Josh Grimes, chef de cuisine at Vanderpump Cocktail Garden at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, created a lobster and avocado flatbread that also has avocado-creme fraiche spread, yellow tomatoes, red onion and Hearts On Fire microgreens. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Riding the new 15-minute "Star Wars" ride at Disneyland
What it's like to ride the new 15-minute "Star Wars" ride At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Main St. Provisions is coming to the Arts District - VIDEO
Kim Owens talks about her new Arts District restaurant, Main Street Provisions, which is under construction. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Artist Wayne Littlejohn on “Spin Baby” - VIDEO
Wayne Littlejohn’s sculpture celebrates Las Vegas entertainers. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiësto headlines CES 2020 closing party at Hakkasan Nightclub - VIDEO
Tiesto performs for CES conventioneers and clubgoers during the DreamlandXR Closing Night Party at Hakkasan Nightclub at the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip in the early hours of Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Locals cheer on James Holzhauer at 'Jeopardy!' watch party - VIDEO
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But James Holzhauer would have a better chance at winning “Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time” tournament if Ken Jennings would stop copying his aggressive betting strategy. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drake's first show of 2020 at XS Nightclub in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Drake performs at the indoor/outdoor XS and Encore Beach Club at Wynn Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip in the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Ceremony held for Elvis artist Trent Carlini - VIDEO
A ceremony was held for Elvis impersonator Trent Carlini on Wednesday night at The Space in Las Vegas. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2020: Small appliances unveiled in Las Vegas - VIDEO
The small appliances on show at Sands Expo at CES 2020 in Las Vegas include a Keurig cocktail maker, autonomous cooking system, nitrogen coffee ampules and more. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2020: Impossible Foods debuts Impossible Pork in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Before a packed press conference at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Impossible Foods executives introduced Impossible Pork, its newest product. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga joins her band leader at his after-hours show - VIDEO
After finishing her “Jazz + Piano” show at Park Theater, Lady Gaga joined her band leader Brian Newman for a rousing version of "Fly Me to the Moon" during his show at NoMad Restaurant at Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip after midnight on New Year's Day, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Brian Newman rings in 2020 at NoMad at Park MGM - VIDEO
Brian Newman, bandleader for Lady Gaga, performs at NoMad Restaurant at Park MGM on the Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
New Year’s Fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fireworks explode over the Las Vegas Strip to celebrate the new year of 2020. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kats hits Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve - VIDEO
Man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes covers entertainment on the Strip on New Year's Eve Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Mayfair Supper Club overlooking Bellagio fountains. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
RJ LIVE from Drai's nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Aaron Drawhorn live from Drai's nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip across from the Bellagio fountains on New Year's Eve.
Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina talk about opening International Smoke
Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina, partners in International Smoke, admit things don't always admit things don’t always work the first time. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Unravel the story of House of Eternal Return at Meow Wolf - VIDEO
New Mexico art collective Meow Wolf created the House of Eternal Return in 2016. The group is opening an original immersive experience in Las Vegas next year. (Meow Wolf)
Story behind Spago’s two-pound truffle - VIDEO
Spago chef Mark Andelbradt shares the story of a truffle hunter who found the truffle. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ayesha Curry preps for International Smoke opening
Ayesha Curry talks about preparing for the opening of International Smoke, her collaboration with Michael Mina at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the French Onion Burger at Topgolf in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Kreg Klaver, executive chef at Topgolf at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, makes the French Onion Burger by topping a 7-ounce beef patty with horseradish-Dijon, caramelized onions, Gruyere and crispy onions, on a pretzel bun. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mayfair Supper Club preview
The finishing touches are still being put on Bellagio’s new Mayfair Supper club, which is set to open on New Year’s Eve. But the creative team behind the experience gave members of the media a little preview on Thursday in a rehearsal space they’ve been using at Park MGM. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday Honey Toast at Sake Rok in Las Vegas
Bill Lee, executive sous chef at Sake Rok at The Park in Las Vegas, makes Holiday Honey Toast by hollowing out soft white pain de mie bread, coating it in butter, honey and sugar, toasting it and topping with three scoops of mint-chocolate chip ice cream, more honey-butter, gumdrops, candy canes, powdered sugar and cinnamon. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New lunch menu at Momofuku Las Vegas
Chef Michael Rubinstein talks about the new lunch menu at Momofuku. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Cube by Nanotak at Intersect Festival - VIDEO
The cube synced with driving electronic music and glowed with LEDs that twinkled along the cube’s lines. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Elvis Presley tribute artist Trent Carlini dies - VIDEO
Trent Carlini, a renowned Elvis Presley tribute artist who performed at several Las Vegas resorts for almost 30 years, has died. Clark County officials confirmed Carlini died on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, at a Las Vegas hospital. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Intersect drone light show - VIDEO
The Intersect Music Festival in Las Vegas featured a special drone light show. (Samia DeCubas)
Shirley Chung is “coming home” for Paired dinner
Celebrity chef Shirley Chung is back in Las Vegas to co-host a sold out collaborative dinner Saturday night at Red Plate in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dandelion Chocolate opening at The Venetian
San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate will open its first Las Vegas café and retail store in The Venetian on Saturday. To celebrate, they’ll be offering guests free hot chocolate. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lbertine Social’s Pastrami Feast
Libertine Social's massive, house-made short-rib pastrami for $175 latter consists of three bones of short rib brined for seven days, smoked for six hours and cooked sous vide for two days before it’s finished in the restaurant’s pizza oven to give it a bark. It’s then carved and presented tableside with an assortment of sides and lettuce for making wraps. What’s “leftover” is then returned to the kitchen and prepared as Reuben sandwiches.
Ellis Island unveils The Front Yard
Ellis Island’s marketing director Christina Ellis talks about the new addition of the Front Yard. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Things to do this week in Las Vegas

Looking for something to do in the Las Vegas Valley? We’ve got you covered. Check out our best bets for the weekend and week ahead.