I recently had the privilege to eat at Harvest, in the Bellagio Resort & Casino, Las Vegas. Harvest’s menu is a welcome change of pace in the Las Vegas dining scene, meeting the healthier demands of today’s food savvy diners while delivering fresh, imaginative dishes that showcase the constantly evolving seasonal ingredients. With an inviting atmosphere that is framed in imported granite and a glass-walled show kitchen, Harvest is as visually enticing as the food and delivers the extraordinary service one would expect from a world class team of professionals.
The afternoon we dined there we were treated to menu selections that included adventurous small bites, inventive vegetarian and vegan dishes, fresh sustainable seafood, organic poultry from the rotisserie and market-driven sides. To pair flawlessly with our dinner, the Sommelier curated a wine selection including champagne and some interesting home grown wines.
While we were dining we had the treat to meet the new Executive Chef, Isaiah Torres, who beamed with enthusiasm. You could tell immediately he loved his job and liked nothing more than to play with produce, flavours and pairings as he discussed the menu with us and how the kitchen is all involved in picking the dishes that end up on the menu. After dinner, I got the chance to sit down with him and interview him for Bespoke Black Book.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I was inspired to become a chef because I grew up in a large family where we always had food to eat but it wasn’t necessarily the best food. The culinary industry gave me a way to experience the flavors of the world through the amazing chefs that I have worked with throughout my career.
Before Harvest at Bellagio Resort & Casino where else have you worked and what did you learn?
I have held a few different chef positions throughout Las Vegas, however, one of the most prolific experiences I had was through MGM’s Culinary Associate Program (CAP). The opportunity brought me to Mandalay Bay where I learned every aspect of the culinary industry from a resort environment perspective. I was able to work the Buffet one month and lucky enough to assist in opening the Alain Ducasse restaurant Rivea the following month. The experiences and relationships I gained through that program will be with me for a lifetime.
What was it like taking over from Roy Ellamar?
It was extremely humbling to step in to the Executive Chef role at Harvest. Roy has always been, and continues to be, a mentor to me. I am lucky to have someone that has always been completely honest with me in my growth and development.
Why is farm-to-table cuisine so important to you and the team at Harvest?
The opportunity to experience food from farms that truly care about the products as they are growing gives us a larger appreciation to how we care for them in the cooking/developmental process of our dishes.
How do you go about sourcing your ingredients and what checks do you have in place for sourcing your seafood & meat?
We work closely with our vendors to ensure the products we receive are up to our standards, not just here at Harvest but also MGM Resorts as a whole. There are products that we use that are excellent and when we can use and find such beautiful products, others in our portfolio are able to benefit as well.
What is it like working in an open kitchen?
I love working in an open kitchen. In a lot of ways it keeps you honest. We have to constantly think about how we are working so as to ensure we are staying clean and being efficient. Additionally, it gives us an opportunity to interact with our guests. Don’t be surprised if we photobomb a picture or two!
Why have you added vegan offerings to the menu? Are they just as appealing to non-vegans?
We have always had vegan items available on our regular menu, we just have not pointed them out as it tends to dissuade a non-vegan diner once they see a “vegan marker” next to the dish. The vegan menu was designed to work in tandem with our regular menu so our vegan guests can have a seamless dining experience along with non-vegan diners in their party.
What’s your favourite ingredient to work with?
My favorite ingredient to work with is an ingredient I have never used before. There are countless flavors in this world and it is so special to find a new flavor or texture and incorporate it in our menu.
Why is being ethically and sustainability focused so important to a restaurant? What could you do better?
Sustainability is not just a focus of Harvest but also for MGM Resorts as a company. We embody this core value and it shows through our care with farms, vendors, and small businesses we have worked with for years. As far as doing something better, I believe that is something we as cooks and chefs strive for daily. We need to continuously grow and develop on a regular basis.
What’s next for Harvest?
Celebrity chefs Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, who also have Voltaggio Brothers Steak House at MGM National Harbor, will host a special pop-up dining experience now through September 10. The opportunity to host other chefs in our space is amazing, especially at our restaurant where guests can see the chefs work as they prepare their cuisine in the open kitchen. I am sure we will have more opportunities like this in the future.