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Craftsteak Goes to Vegas

THE FINAL PUSH "We've gotta move back the opening," Tom announces. It's two weeks later, and Colicchio is examining the schedule with Albrecht and Lapin. "We need more time for training."

Colicchio knows that the staff will be a critical factor for Craftsteak. "I have no doubt that we can make great food here," he says. "The challenge lies in bringing our brand of service to Vegas. Taking a group of waiters who may not have been taught this way, and imparting our knowledge, attitude, and style." Colicchio's restaurants are renowned for assured service: the waitstaff can explain the origins of Jerusalem artichokes as easily as they can recommend a great Pinot Noir.

Craftsteak, Colicchio hopes, will be no different. To that end, he has insisted on taking charge of staff training, an area usually overseen by the hotel. There's a catch: since MGM is a union hotel, many of the Brown Derby's workers were retained after its closing, per union rules. They now make up 80 percent of Craftsteak's front-of-house staff. So a large part of their training will be devoted to "unlearning" old habits and techniques.

Lapin makes this point clear later that morning, at the first all-staff meeting. "Put aside everything you know," he tells the crowd in a hotel conference room. "The way you braised meats, the way you answered the phone, all of it—take a deep breath and let it go." A few eager trainees audibly exhale. The rest cast weary looks at the massive tome resting on their laps: an exhaustively detailed, 200-page training manual.

The manual is a veritable encyclopedia of food and drink, covering everything from seasoning to coffee to single malts. A 100-term glossary accompanies the tea section; legumes merit several pages of description. "I want everyone to study the manual thoroughly," Lapin intones, "whether you're a line cook, a runner, or a hostess. By the time we open, each of you should know this stuff by heart." Nervous whispers float through the crowd: Can he possibly be serious?

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