You recently introduced lunch service at D.O.C.G. in the Cosmopolitan. Did you have to step outside your comfort zone for the grab-and-go portion of the project?
I really thought about the type of food and the experience we wanted the customer to have. Those were the deciding factors more than anything else. And then I rely on the team to help execute and make sure that the quality was there. So you know it wasn’t “Is it comfortable,” “Is it not comfortable.” It was really more about saying, “What is the need, what do our costumers want, how do we expand the amount of customers we have and how to we make more people happy?” That’s the approach.
Where do we see your signature style in lunch at D.O.C.G.?
When it comes to Italian food, there are certain commodities, especially [in] Italian-American food, which is what D.O.C.G. represents. There is a certain idea that people have—a certain style. So I take those commodities and elevate them a little bit. A perfect example is the chicken Parmesan gyro: smoked tomato sauce, all fresh. We use dark meat, because it’s the best part of the chicken, and we use burrata and fresh basil. It’s just elevated slightly; [we’re] a little bit more thoughtful about the components that go on the sandwich.
Fall is at last upon Las Vegas. When do you begin your fall menu planning?
We start in the spring. It’s good to stay ahead. And in the fall, we are thinking about spring. We’re no different than the fashion world. We always have to stay ahead. It doesn’t make sense in the spring to start thinking about spring, because you are already behind at that point.
What is your work-life balance mantra for yourself?
It is … something I am constantly working on. [Laughing.] Every time I’m with the family, the goal is always to spend more time with my kids. I have two little girls, and I want to be with them more than I want to be anywhere in the world. But you got to make a living. So it’s always a challenge. I say “No” to so many things, because it takes me away, specifically on the weekends. Sunday is family day, so I am going to do whatever I can to spend Sundays home with the girls.
Do you have any personal charitable causes or involvements?
I do a lot in Las Vegas; I have done a lot of stuff with Larry Ruvo at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and Keep Memory Alive. When I competed on Chopped on the Food Network, I competed for that cause for a multitude of reasons.
On TV you are known to be a stern, but fair judge. Is there a difference between between your on- and off-camera demeanors?
I always say that I’m a victim of a bad edit. Exactly how people know me is the way I am, but when I’m trying to get a point across, that is not necessarily a time to smile. I am also not scared. Anybody who knows me knows that. They know that if somebody is going to throw it down, I’m gonna be right there with them if they want to talk smack. I’m a nice guy, I really am a super nice guy, but I’m not afraid to go toe-to-toe with people.
Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
Have I mentioned that I’m really a nice guy, and I’m much nicer than they make me look on Chopped?