Pioneering an extensive vegan and vegetarian culinary program

By Debbie Hall

In 2010, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore became the first resorts on the Las Vegas Strip to offer vegan and vegetarian menus at all of its 21 restaurants. This innovation in the hospitality industry allows guests to choose healthy options when dining out.

As part of its commitment to providing wholesome options, Wynn and Encore have partnered with Tal Ronnen, celebrated vegan chef and author of “The Conscious Cook,” to create innovative new vegan menus and collaborate with Wynn and Encore chefs.

“We changed the menu in every outlet from the employee cafeteria to in-room dining to every restaurant,” Steve Wynn, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, said during a recent press conference. “This is not about eating celery sticks and carrots all day. … It’s about making rich, delicious, tasty food that has plant-based ingredients, not animal-based ingredients.”

“I am excited to work with the esteemed Wynn and Encore chefs to introduce my vegan cuisine to Las Vegas,” Ronnen said. “I hope diners will find that eating meat- and dairy-free cuisine does not have to feel like a sacrifice, but a step-up.”

The vegan menus will include salad, appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert options. One main ingredient used in many of the vegan dishes is Gardein; a plant-based protein made from soy, wheat and pea proteins, vegetables, and grains such as quinoa, amaranth, millet and kamut. Gardein is free of cholesterol, trans or saturated fat and is also animal and dairy free.

Known for his extensive steakhouse menu, Executive Chef David Walzog of Lakeside Grill and SW Steakhouse has teamed with Ronnen to create vegan dishes. At SW Steakhouse, entrees include spring vegetable risotto; Gardein vegan “meatballs” with tomato sauce and creamy polenta, and sautéed Gardein chick’n with peperonata and sherry vinaigrette.

For Sinatra inside Encore, the culinary tribute the icon of cool, Chef Theo Schoenegger and Ronnen introduced tasty vegan dishes such as agnolotti, small pockets filled with vegan ricotta, herbs and asparagus sauce.

Chef Jet Tila demonstrates inventiveness with dishes such as vegan crunch roll made with string beans, cucumber, avocado and topped with Japanese rice crackers; vegan California roll made with avocado, cucumber, asparagus and brown rice wrapped in seaweed; and shiitake-nagi sushi with roasted, seasoned shiitake mushrooms and vegan eel sauce.

Botero, a 2011 AAA Four Diamond Award recipient, is a combination of fine art and flavors of Chef Mark LoRusso and now offers the Chef’s vegan tasting menu consisting of five courses.

At Tableau, an American bistro with a twist, Executive Chef Joseph Leibowitz offers a vegetarian menu for breakfast including “eggs” Benedict with Gardein sausage, scrambled tofu and yellow tomato ”hollandaise” sauce. The lunch menu features choices such as white bean stew with Tuscan kale or pan-roasted Gardein chick’n with tomato fondue, escarole and micro greens.

At La Cave Wine and Food Hideaway, dining is available in an intimate setting or outside on the garden-inspired patio with choices by Executive Chef William DeMarco that include gluten free, dairy free, meat free, fish and shell fish free, vegetarian, and vegan.

For those who love Italian cuisine, Stratta at Wynn offers vegan selections such as vegetable caponata pizza with eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper stew, golden raisins, pine nuts and soy cheese.

For more casual dining, ZooZaCrackers Deli’s menu offers choices that are dairy free, peanut free, egg free, soy free, fish free, shellfish free, tree nut free, wheat/gluten free and vegetarian including its matzo ball soup made with vegetable stock and egg substitute.

Always a pioneer in the hospitality industry, vegetarian and vegan choices in all of the restaurants are more than just following a trend. Wynn eats what he says in that he has embraced the vegan lifestyle and, while not forcing the issue, is just making it a part of the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore dining experience.

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