Welcome to Chefs of the Strip, Eater’s mini series following Las Vegas Strip chefs.
Bacchanal Buffet, the enormous 25,000-square-foot dining experience, opened six years ago in Las Vegas with a roster of nine kitchens serving 500 dishes from breakfast to dinner. Caesars Palace spent an estimated $17 million in construction costs alone to build this all-you-can-eat buffet with three separate dining rooms that serve up to 4,000 people per day, averaging out to about 275 guests per hour.
The buffet’s executive chef Leticia Nunez works 14- to 16-hour shifts, starting her day at 4 a.m. when food arrives on the loading docks. ”Chefs think, ‘It’s a buffet. Anybody can do a buffet;’ I think true chefs know how difficult it is,” says Nunez. “It’s easier to cook for 10 people and be perfect. But try cooking for 4,000 people and be perfect.”
The native of Oaxaca, Mexico got her start as a chef at 17 in Napa Valley when she worked under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. She took over the Bacchanal kitchen in 2017.
It’s 7 a.m. now, and Nunez has gone through to taste every single item on the line before the first diner appears. Almost 80 percent of the dishes are cooked right in front of customers, and a menu of 30 specials changes almost daily. “I don’t know if there’s another chef in the United States that cooks as much food as we do,” she says.