Las Vegas transformed into a foodie paradise May 10-13 as well-known chefs from Bellagio, Caesars Palace, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay teamed up to present once-in-a-lifetime events. With the lure of having more celebrity chefs per square foot than anywhere else in the world, Vegas Uncork’d has always been a popular festival with discerning palates. During these four days, The Strip was full of happy food lovers sharing treasured photos taken with their favorite celebrity chefs, the staggering variety of great food they sampled, and stories of their interactions with the culinary icons.

But no one was excited as I was. A devoted foodie at heart, I was thrilled to be working on the city’s premier food & wine event and even more excited for an insider look. What I did not expect, however, was meeting talented, five-star chefs and eventually becoming friends with them.

I first met Chef Bradley Ogden, owner and chef of his namesake restaurant in Caesars Palace, along with other participating chefs during the Vegas kick-off event in February, when we broke the Guinness World Record for uncorking the most bottles of wine simultaneously. Bradley has a great sense of humor and a charm in front of the camera that endears him to audiences, making him one of my favorite chefs to work alongside. As Vegas Uncork’d approached, we quickly developed a working relationship that resulted in a funny episode during the Grand Tasting.

Accompanying the photographer around the Grand Tasting, my job was to take photos of the event atmosphere, food dishes and the chefs themselves. It sure sounded easy – until I discovered the chefs had all left their stations to mingle with the crowd and eat at each other’s booths. So for the next two hours, I weaved in and out of a crowd of 2,500+ in a five-acre pool garden trying to find chefs.
When I finally found Bradley with a captivated crowd around him, I breathed a sigh of relief and checked off his name in the long list of participating chefs. But he had another challenge for me before he would allow the photographer to take a picture. Our conversation went as follows:

Me: “Bradley! I’m so glad I found you! Can our photographer take a photo of you and your food please?”
Bradley: “Hi there! I can, but only if you will eat my food.” (Holds up a dish and starts piling it on a fork.)
Me: “I’m working so I can’t eat. Please? I just need one photo.” 
Bradley: “No. Just one little bite. You need to eat even if you’re working.”

In the end, he refused to budge and I shyly ate a bite of deliciousness in front of flashing bulbs and a curious crowd of on-lookers. Always stationed behind the camera, I was mortified. True to his word, he then posed for the camera with a charming smile.

Not only did Vegas Uncork’d manage to serve up sumptuous bites from acclaimed chefs, it also gave the public a chance to get to know their favorite chefs. For me, I was lucky enough to become friends with them.

˜Clara Tsang

(Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)