Ultimo: A weekend of opulence

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Ultimo is returning for another year in Las Vegas.

Grand Banquet table

Grand Banquet table

The weekend of great opulence at the Venetian and Palazzo will draw culinary legends from across the globe for one huge crescendo, a capstone on the kingdom that is Las Vegas dining.

Events this year will be themed with the four elements – fire, water, air, earth – and partnered with a very special culinary tradition. The kickoff to the grand festival is the competition that pits the highest highs of fine dining against one another, the celebrated Bocuse d’Or.

The global event that bi-yearly crowns a chef with the most prestigious title in the fine dining world and captivates the news with displays of unparalleled creativity will be holding the United States semi-finals on the first day of Ultimo. In the Venetian Ballroom, 400 of the most elite chefs from around the country will compete in several grueling heats to find who will be sent as the American ambassador to the final judgement in Lyon, France. Even Chefs like Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller will pit their skills against hundreds others for the chance. In the last competition, Boulud and Keller, along with Chef Gavin Kaysen, were on the same team and actually won the Silver Bocuse prize, coming in second out of all the world’s chefs. A grand honor, but they will still strive for gold in the finale early next year.

That night, after the semi-finalists are named, the first themed dinner is for Earth. In the Venezia Colonnade near Bouchon, three famed chefs will prepare a meal that uses the themes of wild game and truffles, using the culinary techniques and traditions that made Bocuse d’Or famous. Chefs Jérôme Bocuse, Traci Des Jardins and Josiah Citrin, each of them notorious in the realm of high cuisine. For 200 guests, their tickets will also go towards the Ment’or program and scholarships for young chefs.

The next evening is the big one, the event that Mario Batali has called “The greatest meal ever served in Vegas.” With the theme of Air, the “Dinner in the Clouds” is the return of the Venetian Grand Banquet. Along a massive glass table, in clear acrylic chairs and among the clouds themselves, diners will be treated to a feast of truly epic proportions. Starting with a caviar reception with Krug champagne and Urbani truffles, the multi-course evening will be a collaboration helmed by the renowned Thomas Keller, Phillip Tessier (first American Silver Bocuse medalist), Shaun Hergatt (of Juni in New York City) and celebrity chef Ming Tsai. Southern Wine and Spirits will be putting their top sommeliers to task for pairing each dish with something worthy of the meal.

Venetian Grand Banquet-11


To celebrate Water, the next afternoon will be a seafood luncheon on top of a floating clear acrylic platform partially submerged in the Grand Canal. Gondoliers will coast by, pouring prosecco to guests, for a unique taste of the Mediterranean. The very same day, later in the evening, the singing “Butcher of Panzano” Dario Checchini will be returning to the Venetian for a night of fire. The outdoor piazza of the Doge’s Palace will hold a champagne reception, where whole hogs, fish and cuts of beef roast over open flames. Guests will move into the Paiza Club, the secretive invite-only gambling parlor and restaurant, where Dario will team with Venetian-Palazzo Executive Chef Oliver Dubreuli to put together a multi-course meat-fest, with a multitude of flowing wines.

Venetian Grand Banquet-15

Daniel Boulud

After guests have truly exhausted their capacity for the pleasures of luxury, it seems it would be important to decompress as not to suffer a shock, like a diver getting the bends. For this, Sunday morning will have Delmonico Steakhouse serving up the “Truffle Farewell Brunch”. A civilized but no less extravagant affair, Chef Ronnie Rainwater will be turning the Italian/Cajun stylings of Emeril Lagasse’s cuisine into a brunch like no other, with classics perfected and gilded with petal after petal of seasonal Italian white truffles.

There’s a definite master plan behind the opulence of Ultimo. Sebastien Silvestri, Vice President of Food & Beverage at the Venetian-Palazzo, has taken a very hands-on creative role in making it happen. With the pool of culinary talent that has made a home at the two resorts, there is no shortage of fine chefs to bring in. Now, with Ultimo encompassing creative, whimsical themes, pulling top chefs from around the world and partnering up with the Bocuse d’Or itself, Ultimo is in position to be part of the world stage, defining the calendar of fine dining and dictating the schedule of the elite.


By Mitchell Wilburn


Mitchell Wilburn is a lover of all fine things consumable and has been writing on and critiquing the Las Vegas dining scene for the past five years. You can read his thoughts and reviews in Desert Companion magazine, Vegas Chatter and other Las Vegas publications.

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