As any experienced buffet aficionado knows, you've got to have a strategy when it comes to bellying up to an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. Pacing, planning, and clear priorities are all key characteristics of the serious buffet diner. And as I learned recently while visiting the pastry kitchen for the Wicked Spoon Buffet at the new Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, a similar philosophy is essential behind-the-scenes as well. When serving between 2,000 and 3,300 people per day, strategy is the name of the game.
Enter Thomas Trevethan, the Executive Pastry Chef for The Cosmopolitan, who runs his kitchen with all the rigor and precision of a seasoned efficiency expert (anyone who read Cheaper By the Dozen as a kid will see more than a little Frank Gilbreth in Trevethan.) In addition to the buffet, Trevethan and his staff of 30 pastry cooks are also responsible for the hotel's banquets, catering, and room service menus. It's a whole lot of pastry, from hulking buttery croissants to giant sugar sculptures to rows of brilliantly colored gelato. Treats like fudge are made in 100-pound batches, and Trevethan estimates that his kitchen goes through 125 pounds of butter and 50 pounds each of sugar and flour each day.
Trevethan says he took what he learned from running the pastry kitchen at the much smaller 400-room Ritz Carlton in Cancun, and added speed and productivity. There are no wasted steps in the 24-hour-a-day kitchen, and recipes and plating are highly regimented—chocolate covered strawberries are dipped two at a time, one skewer in each hand, to create about 3,000 pieces each day. Since opening the kitchen last winter, Trevethan has reduced the number of people needed to run the gelato machine from three to one by alternating between two ice cream machines, extracting gelato from one while the other is half way through its cycle. These precise systems, he says, ensure that the pastries that make their way to the buffet are generally no more than an hour out of the oven.
So how are all those desserts and pastries made? What happens in this Vegas kitchen isn't staying in Vegas; take a glimpse in the slideshow.