Tom Colicchio is standing in a hidden corner of the MGM Grand hotel, shouting above the whine of a band saw. Dodging sparks from an arc welder, coughing through a cloud of plaster dust, he gazes around the room and flashes a grin. "Beautiful, isn't it?"
Well, not at this moment, exactly. Drop cloths cover the floor; hook lights dangle from what may someday be a ceiling. The vast room is empty save for a scissor lift, piles of plywood, and a dozen cursing construction workers. It's impossible to believe that this $5 million show will debut in five weeks—as of right now, there isn't even a stage set.
Colicchio isn't worried. He has seen much worse. The launch of his last restaurant, for instance—Craft, in New York, which opened after a four-month delay in March 2001. "A freak show," he recalls. "First, the stoves wouldn't fit down the stairs to the kitchen. Then an electrical panel fell off a delivery truck and broke. On opening night, we lost our hot water and heat—we had to bring in space heaters. Then the fire alarm wouldn't stop ringing." He laughs. "So, really, this is going pretty well."
He has reason to be hopeful: Craft went on to earn a three-star review from the New York Times and a James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant in America. Colicchio is a familiar face at the Beard awards: he was named Best Chef in New York in 2000 for his cooking at Gramercy Tavern, which he still co-owns, and last year his book, Think Like a Chef, won a prize for Best Cookbook.
Perhaps a well-deserved break was in order?
Nah. Even before Craft opened, Colicchio was plotting his next move. The restaurant would be called Craftsteak. And he'd do it in Las Vegas.