Industry Insiders: Elizabeth Blau, Restaurant Queen

Elizabeth Blau, founder and CEO of Las Vegas restaurant consulting firm Elizabeth Blau & Associates, was recruited by Steve Wynn early in her career and has helped shape the Vegas restaurant landscape. She caught up with BlackBook about having the occasional truffle, getting hooked on Wii, and where the Vegas connoisseurs dwell.

What establishments do you like in Vegas? I love Blush. I love Tryst for more of the big night club, and I love The Bank at the Bellagio. I love Bartolotta at the Wynn, I love Nobu and Cut as well.

What’s your job description? I am a restaurateur. I have four restaurant operations with my business partner, Kerry Simon — one of which is Simon at Palms Place, and another restaurant with my chef husband, Kim Canteenwalla. I’m also a restaurant consultant.

And a judge on Iron Chef, right? Yes and a judge.

How would you describe what you do among all of those pictures? I am very lucky because I have the most amazing job in the world, and I get to travel all over the world and eat. I work with amazing people, and I run concept restaurants, make restaurant partnerships, and do everything involved in restaurant deals.

Who are two industry icons or people that you admire in hospitality? There’s a gentlemen named Shep Gordon, and he is just this amazing guy. He represented lots of musician and he represented the Shaft. He’s the one that got Wolfgang and Emeril involved in the Academy Awards. I also have to say Wolfgang Puck. I just think he’s extraordinary.

What are some positive trends you’ve seen recently in your field? I think we got to an unattainable level of success, and this current economic crisis is bringing all of that back around. We started to have restaurants with $60, $70, $80 entrees, and now it’s coming back to the experience of an evening of dining and entertainment. The hoopla over a $1,000 bottle of wine has waned a bit, and now it’s more about the experience: great service, being treated extraordinarily well, and cooking great food. Food may be simpler and more approachable now — however, I don’t mind indulging in a truffle every now and again.

What’s something that people might not know about you? People may not know that I’m a mom. I have the most adorable four-year-old little boy, and he likes to get into boy things. So we are constantly out hiking and trekking around for animals at the zoo and things like that.

Does he have a love of fine dining? Has he taken that from you? He does. He likes to cook, and he has his own kitchen. He’s traveled so much that there was a time where instead of going to a hotel we rented a condo at a resort, and he said, “Mom, I don’t know if I like this place, there’s no room service.” And I thought, “Surely we’ve been traveling too much.”

What’s on your radar right now? I’m obsessed with the Wii. My parents got the Wii and the Wii Fit for the holidays. It’s exercising mixed with video game competition. Everyone in our house goes on. You’ll find yourself a champion on the Wii, and then you’ll get dethroned. It’s a good way to get some exercise and competition — plus, it’s fun.

What’s on the horizon for 2009? We are working on a new restaurant that opened at the Encore at the Wynn called Society. We just started working with the Kor Group, and they’ve got hotels opening up all over the world.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I love junk food candy, like Jujubes. Only the really bad stuff — not the expensive chocolates.

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