Saturday 10 March, 2012

Popping Uncork’d: Adam Rapoport Talks


Mr. Rapoport with Chef Ducasse (left, in case you didn't know) courtesy VegasUncork'd

Adam Rapoport listens.

It’s a surprising feature, to be honest, in a New York Editor-In-Chief. The man who now runs Bon Appetit was conscious that changes needed to be made in the magazine’s annual Vegas Uncork’d event, but oddly enough, not so arrogant that he thought he could make those changes by himself. So Rapoport reached out to several Vegas observers and critics during the planning stages, including myself, not just to flatter them (though there was a little of that) but actually get an idea of ways that Uncork’d could be better. As I’ve attended four out of the five last Uncork’d events, I had some definite thoughts, many of which Adam echoed.

After the scheduling was announced, Adam and I spoke again, and he shared some of his thoughts and aspirations for the festival. While he saw a lot to like, he agreed with me that much of it felt rote.

“My feeling is every event should be open to inspection,” says Adam, and “Every year the pressure’s up.”

You cant just slap your name on the festival and walk away,” he continues. “We put a lot of effort and thought into the magazine, and if were going to do it, lets do it, and do it right, and make sure these are events we’d like to attend ourselves. I want there to be more of a connection to what we’re doing at the magazine– people turn primarily to Bon Appetit for recipes, although we’ve been trying to turn it into a lifestyle magazine–and because we’re much more connected to the programming, it will be. I want to be hosting events every day, and Andrew Knowlton, Hugh Garvey too.”

Last year’s Uncork’d, it turns out, was the first that Rapoport attended, as the new Bon Appetit editor, replacing Barbara Fairchild. “While we had the great chefs, we had a Guy Savoy dinner, we had the names involved, I felt the events themselves didn’t feel special enough. The dinner at Guy Savoy was very wonderful, but I’m not sure it felt different from any other night at Guy Savoy. I want it to be unique and interactive and atypical from any other night.

“It’s great that we have Michel Richard and Michael Mina, but what’s he going to do that he doesn’t do any other night? For example,,this year we’re going to have paella making with Jose Andres. That’s a unique experience, and that’s what I want more of. We have Jean-Georges and his wife Marja doing a he said-she said cooking demo lunch. And I feel, as a diner, you want to learn something from the event, walk away with some memories.

“Where do the chefs go late night to eat? That should be part of the experience. We’re going to organize a downtown local crawl with Scott Conant or someone, going to some of the local off-Strip restaurants, like Raku or the good Thai restaurants.

Other innovation on this year’ schedule? A food truck event at Bellagio, that acknowledges the current trend by having Vegas’ best tricksters interact with chefs like Todd Englih and Akira Back. A mixology contest between Matt Myers and other Vegas top bartenders. And a fish symposium with Costas Spiladis.

There are also arguably greater or at least more meaningful wine events this year, with world-renowned talents like Mina wine director Raj Parr and Napa winemaker Andy Erickson involved.

But even with this year’s new ideas, Rapoport is humble enough to realize there is always room for revision. “I would like it to be as successful as possible this year, but some things will work, some will need to be improved.

Rapoport acknowledges that a big part of the challenge is the unique nature of trying to do a comprehensive festival in Las Vegas, where the majority of fine dining is attached to one of several very competitive casino resorts. This is distinctly different from virtually any other locale hosting a food festival. In the past, this has included The Venetian and Wynn and this year, those two are replaced by the very food-dominant Cosmopolitan alongside Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay“You learn to navigate the waters, because you are dealing with four independent parties learning to work together, four event organizers, four properties—plus the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association. It’s a balancing act, it’s a challenge, but a challenge worth taking on.”

I still feel that the festival could do more to connect to the community, and find ways to make some events free, or at least inclusive.

No matter what, says Adam, “There are too many good chefs and restaurants to not put on a good festival in Las Vegas. There’s too much potential not to continue.”

Vegas Uncork'd official site

share your thoughts on Twitter with @bonappetit

Related Posts

VIDEO: Vegas Uncork’d 2012 Grand Tasting
VIDEO: Vegas Uncork’d 2012 Grand Tasting
Chefs, Fine Dining, Video