Chef Lanny Chin has only been in Las Vegas for about six years, but he’s already become a fixture on the local culinary scene on and off the Strip. Since moving from Cleveland, he has served as Executive Chef of Clique Hospitality’s PKWY Tavern and Apex Social Club, and opened Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms as Head Chef. He was also tapped to direct the much-anticipated sloping door in the Forum Shops in Caesars, which opened shortly before the pandemic broke out. Oh, and he’s a chopped champion too.
These days, you’ll find Chin Downtown at the Vegas Test Kitchen serving ramen goodness at Slurp Society. The Weekly caught up with the Ohio Transplant to talk about what makes the Vegas food scene unique and what lessons we can learn from these challenging times.
What is it about the Las Vegas food scene that attracts you? It’s super diverse. Cleveland has a great food scene, but in many ways chefs do the same thing. In Vegas, I feel like so many great people are going in different directions. And the cooking community here is great and very supportive. Everyone just wants to make really good food, especially in one situation [like] Test kitchen. Every week I see different chefs supporting all of the different concepts there.
What do you think makes a good ramen bowl? The broth is key; it’s all. Mine is a little different. I make a chicken base, I make a pork base and I mix them. Then I season that. It’s kind of a hybrid of a Tonkatsu broth and a Shoyu broth. It’s very pig-like – lots of pork fat, super rich – but then I flavor it with a decent amount of soy sauce too. It’s a little out of traditional, but that’s fine.
What kind of food did you eat as a child? My grandfather came over from China with my great grandparents, and the rest of my family are [from] West Virginia, so a very eclectic mix. We spent almost every Sunday at my grandmother’s house and dined together as a family. So these are very calming flavors that I grew up with. There was a lot of home cooking on my mom’s side, things like cabbage rolls, meatloaf, and classic midwestern home cooking. If I could open something that would marry these two [cuisines] It is worth exploring in a restaurant. For me, the best meals are meals that make me feel comfortable and happy.
The restaurant industry has been hard hit by the pandemic. What were your biggest takeaways from that time? Probably my health. I’ve taken my health very seriously this year and lost about 65 pounds by this point. I feel great.
From a professional perspective, I’ve come to the realization that literally nothing is different from people who have multiple restaurants or concepts. Until this past year, I never thought I’d want to own my own restaurant or, you know, my own little restaurant empire. And that has completely changed. Now I’ve got to a point in my career where I want these things and I want to be able to provide jobs to the community, provide super positive work environments to people, and afford a certain quality of life.
I love being in the kitchen, but I’m almost 40 years old. There’s only so long until a cook is on the line and works 16, 18 hours a day, and I don’t know [at] At what age will I no longer be able to do this? But at some point I have to have a different plan, and I think now is the time to act on it.
This is a great city to do so as Las Vegas attracts a kind of pioneering spirit. Absolutely. We have a lot of people who are very passionate about great and interesting food and trying new and different things. There’s a different mindset on the Strip: even if you grew up in the Midwest with limited dining options, this is where you’re on vacation and more likely to try something different. You feel that the time is right and you are out of your comfort zone. There is this really great opportunity to make great food, whether for local residents or the tourist base. I think the slower you go beyond those limits, the more you can educate people, and that’s really exciting.
In your opinion, what will be the lasting effect of this moment in gastronomy? The biggest thing about the pandemic is that instead of letting the situation get the best out of them, people have been able to adapt, change a business model, figure it out and come up with creative solutions. I think in the future people will examine such opportunities and say, you know what? We did it once, we can do it again. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be exactly what you want to do. But you will make it work.