For nearly seven years, executive chef Christophe de Lellis has helmed the kitchen at Joël Robuchon’s namesake restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. In that time, he meticulously and obsessively combined French butter with pureed potatoes, plated rounds of caviar onto tidy bowls of gelee, and shaved truffles over foie gras carpaccio. His efforts earned a loyal following, one that has the dining room booked nightly, and for months in advance, with customers that often explicitly make reservations with hopes of meeting de Lellis.
Now, 13 years after first donning an apron inside Joël Robuchon, de Lellis is leaving to open a restaurant of his own creation in Dallas, Texas. “It was great to work with a famous chef such as Robuchon and carry his legacy all these years,” says de Lellis. “When you work in this environment, you create dishes through the Robuchon filter. It’s never really your own. I’ve been here 13 years and I want to do something that is my own 100%.”
Born and raised in France, de Lellis first crossed the Atlantic to join the Robuchon kitchen in 2010. In 2014, he transferred to chef Shawn McClain’s James Beard Award-winning Sage as chef de cuisine, before returning to Joel Robuchon a year later. At the age of 27, he became the restaurant’s executive chef. De Lellis describes the iconic Las Vegas restaurant inside the MGM Grand as the essence of fine dining, one that offers multi-course degustation menus and service marked by roving carts for bread, dessert, and tea. “It’s one of a kind in Las Vegas. You’d have to fly to Paris to experience it,” says de Lellis. Looking back at his time at Robuchon, de Lellis says he is most proud of continuing the influential chef’s legacy — especially following Robuchon’s death in 2018. “The restaurant is still at the top. It’s had longevity when the turnover here is 10 or 11 years. I’m proud to have achieved that.”
De Lellis’s last day at Joël Robuchon was December 24, 2023. Chef Eleazar Villanueva is taking over as executive chef.
De Lellis’s new venture is a restaurant called Mamani, a 4,000-square-foot modern European restaurant in uptown Dallas. He’s working with Brandon Cohanim, the owner of high-end venues like the Namo Edomae sushi restaurant and Bar Colette cocktail bar. The Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, which famously designed the Claridge’s Hotel in London, is working with de Lellis on the design. The interior design, menu, kitchen, and service approaches all need to be built from the ground up, a challenge that de Lellis is eager to work on. “I’m looking to do a cuisine that is more approachable, not the three-hours-plus sit-down,” he says. “For the Dallas market, I want people coming every week, if they want to.”
De Lellis says he’s excited to begin a new journey in Dallas. “It’s the perfect time to go right now. There’s a lot of interest in the Dallas market with big restaurants and hotels opening in the next couple years.” He expects Mamani to open in late 2024.