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Home > DINING WITH CHEFS > Las Vegas Dining with Chefs > N9NE Steakhouse (Part 1 of 2)

Executive Chef Barry Dakake

N9NE Steakhouse

    Lobster Mashed Potatoes

While dining recently at N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms Las Vegas, TravelsinTaste.com was privileged enough to have dinner with Chef Barry Dakake, who served us a selection of steakhouse favorites that we’re still talking about. Our conversation revolved around more than the food, however, during our fantastic meal Chef Dakake regaled us with stories about his evolution as a chef and about what he thinks keeps people coming back again and again to N9NE Las Vegas. He even gave us a sneak peek at his famous celebrity door! To listen in on our conversation -- and to find out what’s so special about Chef Dakake's private door -- read on. Otherwise, read the full listing and complete menu for N9Ne.

Like all good stories, our conversation with Chef Dakake began at the beginning. "The path that I took to get to where I'm at now started a long time ago," he told us. "My uncle had restaurants back in Rhode Island -- in a small city called Johnston -- and I used to work there when I was younger. Originally, it was an ice cream sandwich shop and I would watch him count the money at the end of the night. Back in the late '70s early '80s, seeing a bunch of $1 bills for $0.99 breakfasts, I thought, 'There's a lot of money!' I didn't have a concept for what money was back then."

Maine Scallops

What Chef Dakake did have, however, was an appetite. "I always had the passion for food because I used to go shopping with my uncle in the mornings," he continued. "He'd go to the local fresh farms to get fresh eggs and things like that. I thought it was really cool, so as the years went on I said, 'I think I might like going into the culinary field.' So it happened: My uncle upscaled his restaurant from an ice cream sandwich shop to a family restaurant, selling steaks, chops and fresh seafood. Of course, being from New England, we had the resources. After finishing La Salle Academy I said, 'Let me go to culinary school; let me see what's out there.'"

Chef Dakake researched the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y.; Johnson & Wales University in Providence; and Le Cordon Bleu in France. He settled, however, on what he calls a more "artsy" school, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). "They offered a culinary program," he said. "I went there and I just fell in love with it. I was especially impressed with the director. When he brought me in he said, 'You're going to come here and you will be baking here the first day; you're hands on.' I know I'm a hands-on guy, not a book guy, so that's what I wanted. I wanted that personal attention."

Chef Dakake attended RISD for two years until he completed its culinary program. After that, he moved to New York on the recommendation of one of his mentors, Belgian chef Leon Dhanens, who taught at the CIA and has since passed away. "He was probably one of the most talented chefs I've ever worked with," Chef Dakake said. "Seeing what he had, and the passion he had, made me want to work harder. He had really big connections in New York and one of those connections was Charlie Palmer. That's where I went to work after I graduated from RISD. I did pastries, I did the charcuterie work -- everything from garmuge to the hot line. Then I left and went to the Biltmore hotel. But I remember leaving Charlie; he says he always used to have meetings and he pulled me aside and he said, 'Barry, no matter what you do -- whether it’s breakfast, lunch, fine dining -- whatever you do, always do it the best. Always use the freshest ingredients.' I said, 'OK, Charlie. Thank you.'"

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