Grant MacPherson is something of an enigma in the Las Vegas dining world. We’re used to globe-trotting celebrities coming here to open a restaurant, only to fly in a few times a year. MacPherson, in contrast, has lived here since 1998. And despite a consulting empire that stretches from Australia to Russia, you won’t find a single local restaurant today that lists him as a chef—but he’s ready to change that.
MacPherson helped open Bellagio as executive chef and both Wynn Las Vegas and Macau as corporate chef, and was part of the all-star chef lineup for last year’s inaugural Life Is Beautiful festival. In January, he was among more than 20 star chefs who prepared a benefit dinner for injured Vegas Seven food critic Max Jacobson. (For his dish, MacPherson created a ginseng-braised oxtail with kumquat marmalade.) And he recently participated in chef Kerry Simon’s benefit to raise money to fight Multiple System Atrophy. MacPherson works on many developments out of his office at the local Granello bakery, which provides baked goods for several Strip casinos. And last year he announced that his international restaurant consulting firm, Scotch Myst, had chosen our city as its base of operations.
But MacPherson wasn’t always such a fan of Las Vegas. His first visit came when Steve Wynn tried to lure him away from Singapore’s legendary Raffles hotel to work at Bellagio. At the time, the Scottish chef had no interest in working in the U.S. But he decided to take Wynn up on his offer to visit—on one condition. “I hadn’t flown business class before,” the chef recalls. “So I said if you send me a business-class ticket, I’ll come to Vegas.”
As he walked from his hotel room at The Mirage to see his friend chef Jean-Louie Palladin at the Rio, MacPherson says he was “blown away” by the scope of the city. He accepted the job at Bellagio and got his green card.
One of his first new friends in our town was Simon, who was in the process of opening Prime Steakhouse at Bellagio in 1998. During those early days, when they weren’t working toward the hotel’s opening, the two spent their time in strip clubs, at concerts and barbecuing on Sundays. “This was before girlfriends, wives, ex-wives, etc.,” MacPherson says.
Things have changed a lot in the past 16 years for MacPherson, who now has two young sons. When he talks about why he loves Las Vegas today, he doesn’t mention its extravagance, or the party scene, but the fact that “it’s a real community!”
“It’s a real city here,” he says. “And three or four years ago you probably wouldn’t say [that].”
So even as Scotch Myst works to establish new restaurants in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Beverly Hills, and MacPherson prepares to shoot a TV pilot, he’s committed to finally opening a restaurant here. That’s apparently part of the reason Scotch Myst is based in Las Vegas. The chef says he tired of participating in special events and constantly being asked why the company doesn’t have a local presence.
So for everyone who’s been asking, he promises, “We’re working on that right now. It’s really the right time.”