The Baltimore Sun
5:00 PM EDT, April 28, 2014
Technically, you could open a casino without a celebrity chef. But, why gamble?
On Monday, the management of Horseshoe Baltimore announced the two chefs it hopes will be marquee culinary attractions at its casino, which is now under construction on Russell Street.
The chefs, John Besh and Aaron Sanchez, will be collaborating on a Mexican restaurant named Johnny Sanchez.
While the 222-seat restaurant will offer some substantial dinner plates, the bulk of the menu will be tacos and tostadas, said Sanchez, who was in Baltimore for the casino's announcement.
“We’re not going to make [Johnny Sanchez] elite, not so chef-y that people won’t be able to embrace it," said Sanchez.
This is the first collaboration for Besh and Sanchez, who are based in different cities. Besh's home base is New Orleans, Sanchez's is Kansas City, Mo.
A James Beard award-winning chef, Besh has hosted two national public television cooking shows, based on his award-winning cookbooks. But Sanchez may be the more recognizable chef from his appearances as a judge on the Food Network show "Chopped."
Both chefs have experience in creating concepts for entertainment venues. In addition to his flagship restaurant Mestizo, Sanchez created the menu for Crossroads, the restaurant concept at House of Blues music venues nationwide.
Among his 10 restaurant projects, Besh has a steak house inside the Harrah's New Orleans casino hotel. Harrah's and Horseshoe are casino brands of Caesars Entertainment, which is the lead investor of the consortium that will be operating the Baltimore casino, which is scheduled to open later this year.
The emergence of Las Vegas as a culinary mecca has spurred a celebrity-chef phenomenon in regional casinos. It’s now not unusual for celebrity chefs to have their names attached to casinos that are in the development stage.
Bobby Flay was announced by the developers of Maryland Live Casino before voters gave final approval to the project. More recently, the New York City-based chef and "Top Chef" host Tom Colicchio was revealed as the headline chef by the developers of a proposed casino in Philadelphia.
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