Kimberly Valdez is being modest when she says that her “biggest asset is the ability to give a chef what he wants.” It’s her relentless creativity that has resulted in some of the most innovative desserts in Las Vegas today.
Valdez is responsible for satisfying the sweet tooth at Wynn restaurants, and she’s made sure the experience is always unique. Lakeside Grill has things like caramel apples and chocolate bacon bars on the sweet dessert cart, and an amazing croissant bread pudding prepared to order. At SW you might get a hot funnel cake. (“I love county fairs,” she explains.)
Influenced by François Payard, the New York-based dessert genius, Valdez also loves savories, such as an olive macaroon with Parmesan cheese created by M. Payard. My favorites are her hazelnut chocolate bar, or the outrageously rich peanut-butter cup from a candy cart she rolls out at Lakeside Grill. But the tall, striking brunette first came to my attention when she served me a slice of vegan carrot cake with whipped soy frosting. I couldn’t believe how rich and satisfying it was, and how the tastes of carrot and pineapple complemented each other.
Valdez, who is 35, married and the mother of a 13-month-old, attended a small culinary school in her native Florida and soon worked her way into a position at the Ritz-Carlton Naples. Next, she landed a job at Palace Court, Caesars Palace’s old gourmet room, where she was assigned to pastry. “I had absolutely no background in dessert,” she says. “So I just followed the recipes.”
But she realized that dessert was her calling, and joined the staff of Alex at the Wynn. Her current boss, SW and Lakeside Grill executive chef David Walzog, is delighted to work with her. “She has an uncanny ability to read what the customers want, and take it to the next level without making it hard to recognize.”