Pure Flavours

Alice Kok
圖 photos courtesy of MGM
MGM previews the flavours of Coast, one of the new restaurants at its soon-to-open Cotai property
As MGM Macau edges ever closer to the opening of its new Cotai property, it has started to offer some tantalizing sneak peaks into the exciting F&B offerings it will feature.  
 
Last month, Michelin starred Celebrity Chef Graham Elliot came to town to present an exclusive lunch, to preview a little of what we can expect to taste when he opens his newest restaurant Coast at MGM Cotai, sometime before the end of this year.  
 
With his characteristic relaxed, charismatic charm, he first gave a quick cooking demonstration, preparing his creative take on the classic Caesar Salad.  Chef Graham’s ‘Deconstructed Caesar Salad’ included crispy fresh romaine hearts, salty Spanish boquerones and a toasty warm brioche twinkie infused with a creamy dressing.
 
“My cooking philosophy would be the idea that less is more, just using a few very pure flavours.  And understanding that all of cuisine is a grey area, it’s not black and white.  So for example if I gave you a carrot, it could be carrot juice, it could be roasted or grilled, or turned into a carrot dessert. Everything is equally beautiful and delicious.  You should always be able to change and do things that are new and exciting,” he explains.
 
Later, we had the chance to sit down and enjoy a few more of his creations, including an entrée of Truffled Popcorn, a main course of Chef Graham’s African Chicken 2.0, and for dessert, an indulgent nontraditional banana split.
 
Chef Graham was particularly interested to get diners’ feedback on his version of the classic Macanese African Chicken dish.   And the response was a resounding thumbs up!
 
“The fact that [on the way to Macau] you had the spice route picking up different flavours all along the travels, I think that’s a bit like what I do. I take the actual components and flavours, but they can be turned into a million different things,” he says.
 
The idea of finding inspiration from his travels is something that Chef Graham feels very passionately about.
 
“My dad was in the navy so I travelled all over, and I pull from everywhere to make my style of food. The more places I go, the more people I meet, that is all reflected in my menu.”
 
While in Macau, he took the time to try some local favourites like egg tarts and almond cookies, and enjoyed some traditional Portuguese cuisine at the Military Club.   And he particularly enjoyed his visit to the Red Market area.
 
“It’s amazing how authentic everything is here in the market, things are so fresh.  It was very inspiring to see things that fresh and beautiful, so now we’re thinking about getting those things on the menu.”
 
Taking inspiration from America’s relaxed West Coast lifestyle, Coast will be overseen by Chef Graham, an award-winning Michelin starred chef and television personality from popular cooking show Top Chef. Coast will offer dishes that capture the spirit of California and neighboring West Coast flavours.
 
“The highlights won’t just be signature dishes, but things that are influenced by coastal regions, the wood fire oven, the shellfish bar, things that are very light and fresh.  It’s not an American restaurant, it’s western, but inspired by things from the ocean,” says Chef Graham.
 
On offer will be a wide selection dishes such as wood-fired pizza, fresh baked breads, salads, grills and other comforting delights for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Californian and New World wines will be available by the glass and bottle. Cozy booths and comfortable tables on tiered levels will allow for easy conversation. And the restaurant will also feature a chef’s table, which can be used for private or public events.  
 
“It’s important to realize that a restaurant is an extension of the chef and the company, so it’s not just cuisine, it’s the feel of the place, the energy, the décor, the uniforms, the music, all of that, so when you come it should be very fun and relaxed,” adds Chef Graham.
 
“With Coast, I had an opportunity to showcase what I do here in Macau, and the fact that it was MGM and it was a new property and in this region that has so much diversity and history, it was something that I wanted to jump at and do, a great once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of it.”
 
Throughout his career, Chef Graham has accrued many prestigious accolades including multiple James Beard Foundation Nominations. At age 27, he became the youngest four-star chef to be named in any major U.S. city and was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2004. In 2008, he opened his eponymous restaurant, Graham Elliot, which went on to become one of only 15 restaurants in the U.S. to be awarded two Michelin stars.
 
In 2016, after 10 seasons with the MasterChef & MasterChef Jr. franchise, he left the show to join Bravo’s Emmy Award winning hit cooking competitions, Top Chef as a full time judge.  He is also the host and star of Bravo’s digital series, “Going Off the Menu.”
 
Given his love for all things coastal and seafood, it’s probably not surprising to hear what his favourite food is.  
 
“If I was stuck on a desert island, it would be have to be sushi!” he says. “It’s important to have a relationship with food, and know the history of it and where it’s from.  Sometimes things can get too muddled and messy by putting so many things on a dish, so when you have a fish that came out of the water and you slice it, when you taste it, it’s of the ocean, it’s delicious and pure and that’s something that resonates with me. It’s almost spiritual and romantic, not just eating food.”