Beni Velázquez

Chef Beni Velázquez

Chef Beni Velázquez takes fusion cuisine to an entirely new level. In the spring of 2015, Beni traded his Bar+Bistro in the downtown Las Vegas Arts District for Isabela’s, a lively lakeside restaurant 20 minutes from the city that specializes in signature cocktails, seafood, tapas and grill. Beni’s irrepressible energy and endless creativity translates to a menu that bursts with the flavors of Latin America, Spain, Italy, France and Morocco.

At Isabela’s Las Vegas, a breakfast of toast and coffee becomes an occasion with Chef Beni Velazquez’s artful Latin fusion influence. Beni blends The Perfect Purée Pink Guava with butter then serves the guava butter in a ramekin alongside hearty sourdough bread and a strong, sweet Café Cubano.

Beni has a keen understanding of flavors and puts an original spin on traditional Latin dishes like carnitas, paella and zarzuela, a Spanish seafood stew.

4Beni was introduced to The Perfect Purée as a chef at the University of California, Los Angeles. He gravitates towards tropical flavors like Pink Guava, Tamarind, Prickly Pear, Lychee and Coconut, all of which feature in the punches, martinis and sangrias at Isabela’s.

In the kitchen, Beni uses Mango Puree in a cream sauce for spiced cumin and coriander salmon served alongside parsnip mashed potatoes.

“It beats me trying take the actual fruit and puree it and cook it down, which is what I used to do,” he says. “I also always want to do everything as naturally as possible without any preservatives or chemicals so people can taste the fruit and vegetables in the food.”

Beni wasn’t intending to become a professional chef when he started working at restaurants as an architecture student. As he tells it, his Puerto Rican mother bragged to her friends that her son was studying to be an architect and wasn’t pleased when he changed careers.beni-velazquez

“She cried for a little while and said, ‘But I told everybody you were going to be in architecture!’”

Beni actually credits his family for his love of cooking. Growing up in New York City, he spent many long hours in the kitchen with his mother, his aunts and his uncles.
Later on, he absorbed all he could from the talented French, Italian and Spanish cooks around him, working his way from banquet and catering facilities to hotels including the Ritz-Carlton and The Four Seasons.

Beni spent 12 years consulting for various hotels, casinos and restaurants and more recently began developing menus for companies in the airline industry. He worked as a corporate chef for Stanford Hospital and Clinics in Palo Alto, Calif. and UCLA. After settling in Las Vegas, Beni opened Bar+Bistro in 2011. He has consistently been included on numerous regional “Best Of” lists and is Zagat-rated in Pan Latin Cuisine. He was also a contestant on the Food Network’s Chopped.

Not long after Isabela’s opened in the spring of 2015, it won Vegas Seven Magazine’s “Best Of” award for its Flan French Toast. That coincided with Beni’s nomination for Culinarian of the Year by the Nevada Restaurant Association, a distinction he shares with Vegas celebrity chef and television personality Jose Andreas.

“I was actually wondering if they had the right person,” Beni says of his reaction when he heard the news. “I called them and said, ‘Hey, you guys made a mistake and they said, ‘No, no.’”

Beni says some of the recognition comes from his involvement in the greater Vegas community; he estimates he hosts 12-15 charity events a year.

Not long after Isabela’s debuted, Beni opened the Soho Pizza Bar in the same community. Both establishments are contributing to a restaurant boom in Desert Shores, which boasts four picturesque man-made lakes. Beni says residents of Desert Shores don’t normally venture to the Strip for dinner. “There’s no water in Las Vegas, so that’s a plus for us,” he says.

Recipes

Raspberry Sangria
Pink Guava Butter
Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Romesco Sauce
Green Apple & Jalapeño Jelly

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