Travel Style: Kerry Simon

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Kerry SimonName: Kerry Simon

Occupation: Chef and Owner

Hometown: Chicago Evanston Seattle born in Pennsylvania

Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

Website: kerrysimon.com

Twitter: kerrysimon

Facebook: KerrySimon

Short Bio: One of the first chefs on the Las Vegas scene, Kerry Simon continues to reinvent himself in the city he calls home. Dubbed the rock-n-roll chef by Rolling Stone magazine, the aspiring musician’s love for cooking did not start right away.

In his late teens, the Chicago native worked at Little Caesars Pizza to save money for an electric guitar. The summer job sparked Simon’s interest in food and late-night recipe testing from Julia Child’s cookbook. At the age of 20 he enrolled in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York followed by a nearby apprenticeship at Jean Morels’ L’hostellerie Bressane where he learned the basics of French cuisine.

After graduation Simon moved to Manhattan and worked with the city’s culinary legends, including Jean-Jacques Rachou of La Cote Basque and Andre Soltner of Lutece. Seeking a new challenge, he accepted the position of personal chef for John Addey at London’s Canonbury House.

A year later, he returned to New York and to Louis Outier’s now closed Lafayette restaurant in the Drake Hotel.  It was there that he met his mentor and friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  Holding both pastry and sous chef positions, Simon helped Lafayette receive its New York Times four-star rating in 1988. Soon after, Ivana Trump appointed him executive chef of The Plaza Hotel’s Edwardian Room, where he was the youngest to hold that title. Almost immediately the restaurant became one of city’s hot spots, with celebrities such as David Bowie, Iman, Matt Dillon, Diane Keaton, Debbie Harry and INXS clamoring for a reservation at the private chef’s table.

In search of a new adventure, Simon left The Plaza’s Edwardian Room and traveled to Russia, Europe and the Far East.  When he returned to the U.S., he chose the city of Miami for his comeback, where he opened Blue Star at the Raleigh Hotel. It was here that Simon first developed what would become his signature approach to American comfort food. Blue Star was an immediate success, leading Simon to open The Raleigh’s Starfish, a seafood restaurant. Max’s and Mercury restaurants soon followed.

In 1998, Vongerichten needed a corporate chef and Simon joined his friend to launch and oversee restaurants in Las Vegas, New York, Hong Kong, London and Chicago. When Mercer Kitchen in New York City and Prime in Las Vegas opened, Simon split his time between the two coasts, holding positions of partner and executive chef at both restaurants.

In Las Vegas, Simon first met his future business partner Elizabeth Blau, and together, they opened Simon kitchen + bar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in 2002.  An overnight success, the restaurant was selected as one of “America’s Best New Restaurants” by Esquire magazine.

Los Angeles was a logical next step for the Iron Chef America winner, who has many friends in the entertainment industry. In 2006 he and Blau opened SIMON LA at the revamped Sofitel Hotel in Hollywood. At SIMON LA, the chef’s modern American cuisine continues to win rave reviews from Angelenos, making the restaurant one of Hollywood’s most popular dining destinations.

In 2008 he returned to the city he calls home with two exciting openings: CatHouse at the Luxor Hotel & Casino and Simon at Palms Place, where he offers a steak and seafood menu under California modern design by the Rockwell Group.

Today Simon’s creativity, sense of adventure and passion for his craft have laid the foundation for all of his restaurants, uniting food and fun in an environment guests return to time and again.

How often do you fly: Once a week on average

How many countries have you been to: 12+

How many continents have you been to: Five

Favorite American city: Chicago

Favorite international city: Tokyo and Hong Kong

Least favorite country: haven’t been there yet

Favorite World Heritage Site: Lijiang China Old town

Favorite airline: American airlines

Favorite aircraft type: Singapore Dreamliner

Aisle or window: Aisle          

Favorite airport lounge: Hong Kong lounge Cathay Pacific

Favorite U.S. airport: Burbank

Favorite international airport: Cancun

Favorite hotel: Aman Puri Phuket Thailand

Do you unpack into the dresser/closet? Or live out of your suitcase? Mostly live out of suitcase

Favorite cruise line: I don’t Cruise

Favorite island: Maui, Hawaii

Favorite fancy restaurant: Jean- George Vongerichten

Favorite hole in the wall: Double Down Saloon

Favorite fruit: Mango

Favorite food: Ayurvedic

Least favorite food: miss-used onions

Favorite travel movie(s): The Great Race

Favorite travel show(s): National Geographic

Favorite travel book(s): National Geographic travel

Right now I am reading: Just finished Keith Richards “LIFE”

Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: National Geo travler /Coastal living /Daily Candy

Favorite travel website(s) – Besides JohnnyJet.com, of course!: Thrillist

Five things you bring on a plane: iPad, iPhone, magazines, something to write on and my own snacks

What do you always seem to forget: I think I forgot

What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty free store? Exclusive scents

Favorite travel iPhone app(s): Evernote

Most embarrassing travel moment: I may have screamed in my sleep once

Worst travel moment: Flying into a Typhoon on one of the world’s largest plane Tokyo

What’s your dream destination: Orkney Islands Scotland on Con Dao Vietnam

Favorite travel charity: Speedway Children’s Charity

Best travel tip:  Make sure your phone is charged 100%

Johnny Jet

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About the Author

Johnny Jet

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

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