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How Chef Leticia Nunez Runs the Best Buffet in Las Vegas — Chefs of the Strip (Bacchanal)



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- Antoine.

Let's make sure those stickers are faced the other way.

Let's make sure all the plates are white.

You got a different color right there.

Are those not matching?

We're missing three bowls, here.

It has to be perfect.

Chefs, they say, well, it's just a buffet, you know?

Anybody can do that.

I think true chefs know what difficult task it is.

It's easier to cook for ten people

and be perfect.

But try cooking for 4,000 people and be perfect.

That's the challenge.

You got to be crazy obsessed.

Our buffet has the best food of any buffet.

I'll throw down with anybody.

I would say to those nonbelievers

of massive cooking, let's go.

There isn't too many chefs that can do that.

And we do that here.

So, it's 4 a.m. and we are waiting for our food to arrive.

It's important that every one of the kitchens has everything

they need by 7:30.

When you are feeding 4,000 people,

you don't want to run out of anything.

Come on.

I am originally from Oaxaca.

I came here with my mother in 1984, and

I ended up here in Vegas, in 1999.

By 7:30, even if there's one guest on the line,

everything has to be absolutely there, on time,

looking fresh,

looking beautiful, tasting perfect.

- Chef Leticia's gonna inspect the line at 7:30,

so I need opening at 7:30 exactly.

It's my stressful time, because,

if I don't have my restaurant opening at 7:30,

I gonna be in trouble.

(laughs)

(bassy, steady jazz music)

- All right, so we're gonna quick take a look

at our Yelp reviews and get ready for the day.

Well, we have a 5 star, 5 star grade, you know,

they had a great experience.

Well done.

But down here, we have a 2 star,

and this is the one I'm gonna focus on for us, internally.

Even if it's only one person that was upset,

let's see if they're telling us exactly

what we did wrong until we get to the root of the problem,

fix it, and now we move on.

Good morning, Bacchanal team.

- [Team Members] Good morning.

- All right, so, a couple things

we got to talk about today, once again, our Yelp reviews.

One of the things that was a let down for them was

the sushi was dry.

But, these are things that we can fix.

Right?

Things under our control,

nothing out of the ordinary.

And that's the task for today.

- You are in the best buffet in the United States

of America, so, be proud to work here, okay?

- Thank you.

- Thank you everybody.

(exotic, enticing music)

- Immediately after the team gets into their stations,

I head up to the production kitchen

and get a moment to reorganize, I guess.

(sighing)

Pointing to Bacchanal.

That's where you get get great food.

That's the feast of the gods.

I would imagine this is how Celine Dion feels

before she's going onto a show.

So, I used to walk in this much faster.

I'm obsessed, you know,

I have to fix something that I saw it wasn't right.

Uh, condensation, we'll put a work order on that.

Did they fix the oven?

- Yes, they did.

- Oh, good.

Okay.

This is not looking good.

Don't use this one anymore.

Better.

What do you see?

You see, it's not representing us well.

Okay?

Thank you, madame.

We're gonna taste many things today!

I got to be prepared.

I load up my pockets with tons of spoons

and tasting everything, because every day is new.

Your taste buds are sharpened,

and your eyes have to be like laser beams, so.

(imitates lasers blasting)

The pozole just needs a little seasoning adjustment.

That's it.

The sushi rice, the rice isn't good,

and they're thinking our sushi is bad and bratty, and

well, no, we work very hard,

and we take that very seriously,

and so, let's look at, is it the grain,

is it the seasoning, is it we're making it too soon?

Just, all of these things.

He just made it, maybe, an hour, and it's already dry.

He's not doing it with the proper technique.

We need to see if we have enough vinegar.

I'm just checking the grain, so, we got to fix a few things.

So, slow it down a little bit.

- Right.

- Until we get a new batch going.

- I got ya.

- Okay.

- This is fine, I think, we're gonna just keep it warm,

don't let it get too cold,

it looks like whatever adjustments you made

this morning are good.

- Good, all right.

Solved!

It just sucks, you do everything, you work your ass off,

and then, you go down on rice.

Oh, I said ass off, I'm sorry,

I mean, you work your butt off.

So, every day, chef Jose and I, we walk the line,

we taste every single item on the line

before the first guest arrives.

Jose!

We have to redo these guys. They're losing their shine.

What do you think of those?

- It's dry.

It's dry.

Carlos, make again please.

- Thank you.

Needs to have at least another minute on the brick.

- Better.

- Yeah?

- Yes.

- We got to reload.

It's very good.

It's perfect.

- Thank you very much.

- Finally got it, after, what, 25 years?

(laughing)

No, no, it's perfect.

I'm out of spoons already?

I put, like 50 spoons.

I don't know if there's another chef in the United States

that uses as much spoons as we do.

- I love when she smiles, because, it's a good sign.

- And I think our tasting of the line is finished.

All right, guys, it's go time.

Let's do this.

It's 7:00 now at Bacchanal, it's go time,

we're ready to go.

We've got 5 minutes to open,

and I'm missing 10 items on the line,

so, I'm a little rushed for time.

We got 3 minutes, guys, 3 minutes,

and I am missing a chorizo.

Missing sausage!

(walkie talkie beeps)

Runner, runner.

- [Team Member] I'll go back to downstairs and check.

- Thank you.

- Yes, he's coming.

We have guests right now.

- Right on the center of the meat, right on the center.

Right now, my plan is to make sure that everything

is going out beautifully.

There was no minis on the line.

This window needs to be full at all times.

You go to a station, it's going down,

you got to get in there,

you got to get them out of the weeds, and give a hand.

Everybody just loves their job and what they do.

They have that stamina, that crazy energy,

that restlessness, you never stop, because there is

so much that needs to be done to work 14, 16 hours a day,

it feels like nothing sometimes.

It takes a certain type of crazy to be a chef.

There's no way I could ever go to anything

smaller than this.

I don't know,

once my time comes up with Bacchanal,

I don't know what that would look like,

but it will definitely be big.

Or bigger.

And this is never ending story, here at Bacchanal.

That's it, so this is a wrap,

what do you want me to tell you?

This is me, this is Bacchanal, this is what we do.