Editor’s note: The interior of Payard Bistro in Caesars Palace looks like a jewelry box, or a box of chocolates, like the ones sold next door in the patisserie. But among the sunny, yellow table settings, one is set apart. And for good reason.
In 1961, my grandfather, George Levine, threw my mother, aunt, grandmother and the family dog into a moving truck to move from New York to Los Angeles. They stopped for one night in Las Vegas and never left. The next day, he went down to the Culinary Union and started his career at Las Vegas Sands.
He made his way to the maître d’ spot at the legendary Copa Room, seating acts like the Rat Pack, the Four Seasons and Wayne Newton in a time when the most powerful man in town was the man who ran the shows.
He stayed in that position until the Sands closed in June 1996. By then his daughter—my mother—was the vice president of the Sands and running her first congressional campaign.
When my time came in this industry, he told me, “You have to sit at every table and in every seat. You must see the lighting and ambience in every corner of your venue. Who can you see from the seat, and who can see you? Once you’ve found the best seat in the house, cut it from all the reservation systems and put a reserved sign down that never comes off. You must have a table that is so exclusive that almost no one can sit in it. Let’s say the president walks in and you’re full. You must always have that table available for him.”
I knew that somehow I had to pay homage to the great man, and vowed that wherever I go, I will have the “Reserved for George Levine” table. Currently, that’s Table 10 in Payard Bistro. The sign adorns the table nightly and almost no one has seen the view from that table since.