The Casino Cookin’ Party

The Casino Cookin Party Group cooking events are common these days, especially at casinos that typically do a large number of banquets. So we poked around to see if we could find some creative, over-the-top culinary options to spice up your next event.

At the 5-diamond Bellagio in Las Vegas, the 65-person Tuscany Kitchen is a demonstration cooking and dining venue purpose-built for groups. Large TVs are set up around the room so everyone can have a bird’s eye view of the long countertop and gleaming Viking appliances, or participants can hang out right there and chat up the chefs.

Executive chef Edmond Wong is here with a meeting group preparing a “Duo of Venison”—a seared loin and braised shoulder in a huckleberry au jus. In rapt attention, everyone is watching him prepare the meat sous-vide, a method of cooking using vacuum sealed bags to maintain tenderness. He finishes the evening with “pulled sugar work,” which is like glass blowing, except with sugar.

“Tuscany Kitchen is actually a designated platform for groups, so the environment is really conducive for teambuilding,” says Wong. “It’s always a great hit because people enjoy learning the secrets behind what we do.”

Is Bellagio’s 5-diamond status part of the lure too?

“Yes, absolutely, we have four master sommeliers on property,” says Wong. “You’re not going to find that anywhere else, there are just over 100 in the US…. The interactive atmosphere is key. People love asking a master sommelier, for instance, ‘So what’s your favorite wine?’ This isn’t just a 5-diamond meal, it’s a 5-diamond experience.”

NEW ENGLAND LOBSTER BOIL The 1,175-room Mohegan Sun is one of the largest casinos in New England, with various venues seating 300-10,000, tucked away in the quiet southeastern corner of Connecticut. Christopher Perry, vp of hotel sales/marketing, sees that as an advantage. With the hotel located right on the Thames River, upriver from Long Island Sound, he says planners can create group events that incorporate the entire region.

One such memorable event takes place a few miles down the road in historic Mystic Seaport, a 19th century re-created whaling village and museum. The party starts with a cocktail reception and private tours aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaling ship afloat. Attendees can also walk through the Seafaring Village where guides in period costume give private tours. From there, everyone boards an open water ferry for a ride to the Boat Shed at Lighthouse Point.

Upon the group’s arrival, Mohegan’s chefs greet the attendees with huge cauldrons overflowing with fresh New England lobsters, clams and all the fixin’s. The shed sits on the dock with the river on one side and the seaport on the other, which Perry explains exemplifies the perfect New England summer for groups up to about 200.

“It’s like something out of House & Garden,” he says. “The coolest part is taking advantage of our area. This is not just about being under the roof of Mohegan Sun, but taking groups outside our doors, and how we can use the attractions that surround us. To this day, it’s one of the best events we ever do.”

“It was a spectacular event,” confirms Clint Wheeler, who brought 100 members from the US Chamber of Commerce-Association Committee to the Seaport event. “It was a great food function and a great collaboration between Mohegan Sun and the Seaport.”