This week, Ira spoke with Master Chef Alex Stratta.
Alex Stratta, a celebrity chef and restaurateur of mixed Italian and French heritage, played the role of Iron Chef Italian on the television show “Iron Chef USA.” He was the recipient of the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef Southwest in 1998 and was executive chef and owner of his famous namesake restaurant, Alex, in Las Vegas until its closure on January 15, 2011. He was diagnosed with colon cancer and became a cancer survivor.
Stratta is a fourth-generation hotelier born to parents from locales well known for their culinary traditions; his Italian father is from the Piedmont region, and his French mother from Nice along the Cote d’Azur. As his father was president of Princess Hotels & Resorts, Stratta spent much of his early life living in luxurious resorts in countries all over the world, including Singapore, Malaysia, Italy, France, Mexico, and Pakistan. This upbringing helped him become fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and English. He attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, California and graduated with honors in 1983.
Stratta began his career as a patissier-in-training at the Stanford Court Hotel. He then accepted an internship at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco; soon after, Alain Ducasse invited Stratta to join the team at his Louis XV restaurant there. After two years, Stratta returned to the United States, and at Ducasse’s recommendation began working for Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque in New York City. Both Ducasse and Boulud acted as mentors who heavily influenced Stratta’s development as both a chef and restaurateur; Stratta credits Ducasse with showing him “how to make basic, simple food taste phenomenal and Boulud for his creative influences as well as business skills.
In 1989, Stratta took on the executive chef position at Mary Elaine’s restaurant at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. While there, he was featured in Food & Wine Magazine as one of “America’s Ten Best New Chefs.”
Under his tenure, the restaurant earned a 4-star rating from the Mobil Travel Guide and also received critical acclaim as the best restaurant in the Phoenix area.
In 1998, Stratta became executive chef of the Renoir restaurant at The Mirage in Las Vegas after being invited by Steve Wynn. The restaurant earned Mobil Travel Guide’s highest rating of 5 stars just six months after opening.
In 2005, Stratta opened his namesake restaurant Alex – once again at the invitation of Steve Wynn, but this time for the grand opening of Wynn’s namesake casino resort and country club, Wynn Las Vegas. Stratta’s restaurant was billed as a “triumph” and has been extremely well reviewed; it received ratings of 5 stars from the Mobil Travel Guide, 5 diamonds from the AAA Restaurant Ratings, and 2 stars from the Michelin Guide.