The term “born and raised” means something in Las Vegas. You will meet a lot of people in a lot of different lines of work who are proud to be born and raised, but there aren’t a lot of born-and-raised chefs running their own restaurants in their own hometown.
“My route getting here is the exact same route every chef takes,” explains James Trees. “What do they do? They learn their craft, they work around for a long time and then you go home and open your own restaurant. The only difference is my hometown is Las Vegas.”
James is the chef and owner of Esther’s Kitchen, one of the hottest tables in town located Downtown in the Arts District, and he’s getting ready to open another Italian dining destination called Ada’s at Tivoli Village. He’s also assembled a casual concept at the STRAT and is ready to host the second helping of Vegas Unstripped, a mini local food festival, on May 11 at Esther’s.
We also talk about why James Trees is the best chef name ever; buying fancy wine in order to impress Kenny G; how operating a restaurant in LA for ten years helped train him to open his own eateries in Las Vegas; interning at the Mirage at the age of 15; working on Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay; why cacio e pepe must be done properly or else; why Ada’s will focus on pizza and ice cream; and how a restaurant chooses its guests, not the other way around.
EPISODE 23: THE Vegas YOU NEED
James loves Paid in Full on the southwest side, “a Midwestern version of Japanese drinking food” with a classic hip-hop soundtrack. Get the mapo tofu Frito pie.
Brock has been sipping and dipping at JEMAA The NoMad Pool Party and you might want to get some for yourself.