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The Super Secret Place To Find Chefs on Saturday Nights

Joseph Leibowitz, left, and Rene Lenger as he explains his dishes.
Joseph Leibowitz, left, and Rene Lenger as he explains his dishes.
[Photo: Chelsea McManus]

Vegas has its own version of Iron Chef going on every Saturday night with chefs coming out from their kitchens to battle it out for the coveted pony keg of PBR. Last weekend, the Back of the House Brawl brought out Rene Lenger of Switch at Encore Las Vegas battling Joseph Leibowitz of Tower Suite Cafe at Wynn Las Vegas.
The evening starts around 8 p.m. at Tommy Rocker’s with a group of rotating food trucks setting up shop. Saturday brought Redneck Kitchen, Roamin Dough, Haulin Balls, Sausagefest, Sheff’s Kitchen and Foxxy Lady’s Cupcakes. Around 1 a.m., the brawl begins. Each chef receives a basket of eight ingredients and must use six in their two final dishes. Each picks out which food truck will serve as their kitchen, and they can use any ingredients on board to cook up their feast.

The clock starts, and each chef has 30 minutes to make two dishes.

Jolene Mannina, who used to have Sloppi Jo’s Roving Eatery and runs the ChowDownTown, sets up the weekly competition. She introduces the two chefs and gives them the rules of the contest. Leibowitz and his sous chef Sonny Beck pick the Roamin Dough as their kitchen; Lenger and his sous chef Roy Lumansoc select the Redneck Kitchen. And off they go.

In the crowd: Geno Bernardo from Nove Italiano at the Palms, Chris Starkus from RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Roy Ellamar from Sensi and Jason Johnston from the Bellagio.

Half an hour later the chef emerge with two dishes. Leibowitz made a seared foie gras with celery root, jalapeño and watercress salad and finished with a cherry gastrique along with a deep fried lamb chop with a corn, black bean and artichoke succotash and a goat cheese crisp.

Lenger served up a seared foie gras served over blueberry bacon wrapped celery and finished with sauteed grapes, a cherry reduction and a watercress garnish along with a seared lamb chops, cous cous, mint and mangos cooked with foie gras.

The winner? Lenger by a hair.

“I loved seeing Chef Rene get soooo giddy after his (super close) win! Was like watching a little kid get his first bike under the Christmas tree!” said Donna Rocker, one of the judges in the contest and co-owner of Tommy Rocker’s.

This Saturday night, Roamin Dough, Sausagefest and Ben's BBQ will be at the truck stop, and the Back of the House Brawl features two sommeliers duking it out — Benito Martinez from Botero at Encore Las Vegas and Harley Carbery of Joël Robochon at the MGM Grand. They’ll each bring a sous chef and pair their dishes with wine.
· All Coverage of the Back of the House Brawl [~ELV~]

Nove Italiano

4321 W Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89103 702-942-6800 Visit Website


3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-770-5310 Visit Website

RM Seafood

3930 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV 89119 702-632-9300 Visit Website


3600 Las Vegas Boulevard S, Las Vegas, NV 89109 702-693-7223 Visit Website