Bradley Ogden, chef/owner
Bradley Ogden
Caesars Palace Hotel
3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, (702) 731-7410

I remember the days when people went to Las Vegas for one of two reasons: Hard-core gamblers went to play blackjack or to hit the roulette tables; the more cultured went to see Liberace, perhaps sneaking out to feed a one-armed bandit during intermission. Today, Liberace has gone on to that piano-shaped swimming pool in the sky, but let it be remembered that it was he who brought the first death-defying stunt to Vegas - playing Rachmaninoff while wearing 30 pounds of sequins. I dare those slackers at Cirque du Soleil to top that.

The gambling is still there, of course. But there's a better reason to go to Vegas these days: food. It all started when Caesars Palace invited Wolfgang Puck to open a Las Vegas edition of Spago back in 1992. The race was on. Las Vegas now has a higher concentration of superchefs per square mile than any other city in any other desert on the planet. These days, a celebrity chef without a Las Vegas restaurant is like an NBA star without an endorsement contract.

One of the most recent culinary beacons to illuminate the Strip is California's Bradley Ogden. I first ate Brad Ogden's food when he was a twentysomething prodigy helming the kitchen at San Francisco's tony Campton Place, fresh off an extended stint at The American Restaurant in Kansas City. Ogden's food was unpretentious, delicious, and refreshingly American. His great vision, in fact, has been to transform American comfort food into transcendental nourishment for both the body and the soul.