Back in 2016, Las Vegas deejay turned chef Shaun O’Neale won Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition MasterChef, taking home $250,000 and a cookbook deal. O’Neale toured the world, going to food festivals, events, and cooking in different locales. Now the chef is ready to start his own restaurant to showcase his food.
O’Neale teamed up with mixologist and former Survivor: Samoa contestant Benjamin Browning to open Larrea, taking over the former Blind Pig space at Panorama Towers on Dean Martin Drive this fall. Larrea, a desert flower, represents the “gem that’s found in the desert” vibe the restaurant and bar has planned.
“It’s going to be really, really high-end kind of bar food, really beautiful drinks that really complement the food and the atmosphere,” O’Neale says. “I think we’re going to really be able to give something to Vegas that is a new and unique experience.”
Hassib Wahab, whose Capxure Growth is working with the Larrea team, compares Larrea to Herbs & Rye with its stellar cocktail program in a steakhouse. “Everyone goes for the happy hour steaks, the delicious food, but it’s a cocktail bar,” Wahab says, adding that Larrea wants to be known just as much for its cocktails as its food. “The idea is New York chic, LA cool, with a Vegas vibe.”
Initially, the restaurant plans to serve dinner, and then introduce breakfast, lunch, and brunch as well as live entertainment. The team also has Panorama Towers Pizza in the works out of the space.
The seasonal menu that uses local purveyors such as wagyu beef from Wells, Nevada, starts with dishes such as a wild mushroom risotto, Nevada wagyu steak, scallop crudo, Baja kampachi crudo, roasted bone marrow, and honey-lacquered Jidori chicken.
Browning, who appeared on Survivor: Samoa, handles the mixology program and plans to use his experience working with hospitality pros from around the world to guide the cocktail menu. The bar plans to cater to Las Vegas Raiders and Vegas Golden Knights fans with cocktails such as the Rum Raider and Knight Shade named for the teams. And some of the drinks use everything from fire to aromatics to displays of fresh herbs and garnishes.
Since winning Season 7 of MasterChef, O’Neale toured the world, traveling anywhere from 200 to 250 days a year, but calls Las Vegas home. “I’ve been in Vegas for about 15 years so Vegas is definitely home for me,” he says. “It’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. It definitely got a large piece of my heart.”
After winning the competition, O’Neale showcased his food at Disney Food and Wine, went to food events in Singapore, Italy, and Costa Rica, and worked with companies like Macy’s and Snickers at South by Southwest in Austin.
“For me, coming off of MasterChef, it was about getting out and traveling and being able to show my recipes, but at the same time we learned from amazing cooks and chefs from around the world,” O’Neale say. “It really got my mind focus on where it needs to be to open this restaurant now.”
• All Coverage of The Blind Pig [ELV]
• Larrea [Official Site]