Kerry Clasby is the secret weapon of many of the Strip's best restaurants, and during harvest season you won't have to look hard to find her exceptional produce in dishes all over the city.
Matsutake mushroom dobin mushi soup with fresh yuzu at Mizumi.
Diminutive and energetic, Kerry Clasby makes frequent jaunts—in her 28-foot truck—between Las Vegas and California in search of the most exceptional and exotic produce for the pickiest chefs in the business. Known as the Intuitive Forager, Clasby parlays personal relationships with a coterie of elite, often obscure farmers, allowing her to snag the rarest of the rare—entire crops of black dates from Southern California and baby escarole grown by Farmer and the Cook in Ojai—tailored to clients’ specifications.
In Vegas, Clasby is in constant demand among the culinary elite. At the same time, her farmers markets (Downtown3rd Farmers Market on Fridays and Downtown Summerlin on Saturdays) are turning local home cooks into organic-produce fanatics themselves. Think strawberries that taste like they’ve been injected with sugar, tomatoes that can be eaten like apples, and Surprise avocados (developed by a botanist at UC Riverside). “Grapes, pears, and persimmons are coming in,” says Clasby. “You fall in love with flavors at the beginning of the season, and they just keep gaining depth and density as the months go on.”
Chef Sean Griffin of Jean-Georges Steakhouse (Aria, 877-230-2742) asks Clasby to show up with “anything interesting” in her weekly visits. For fall, Griffin has embraced her Thomcord grapes from Apkarian Family Farm in Reedley, which marry the sweet skin and seedlessness of Thompson grapes with the full flavor of Concords. In a dish called Morning in the Vineyards, they’re roasted on the vine with herbs, set alongside a protein, and embellished with Riesling foam. Other Clasby-picked items on Griffin’s menu this fall: Warren pears, intensely flavored broccoli di cicco, and heirloom apples, such as Roxbury Russets and Pink Pearls, from an apple farm in Northern California.
Kerry Clasby ranges far and wide to ensure that her clients serve only the best.
At B&B Ristorante (Venetian, 702-266-9977), chef Jason Neve—who likens Clasby to “an extra set of hands in the kitchen”—is using a savory Italian squash called zucca barucca (or “holy squash”). Spotted by Mario Batali during a cooking stint in Italy, he loved it so much that he asked Clasby to have it grown for him here; she found a farmer in Santa Paula. Neve uses it to make a ravioli known as cappellacci di zucca. “You can get butternut squash ravioli at any decent Italian restaurant,” he says, “but this ravioli is made from an heirloom varietal that has the perfect balance of sweetness and richness.”
At his new restaurant, Rivea (Delano, 877-632-5400), chef Alain Ducasse is making good use of Clasby’s gorgeous eggplants, zucchinis, and tomatoes. Mizumi (Wynn Las Vegas, 702- 770-3320) frequently employs Clasby’s variety of mushrooms and makes a slaw out of Fuji apples gathered at Prevedelli Farms in Watsonville.
Those tucking into the fall tasting menu at Joël Robuchon Restaurant (MGM Grand, 702-891-7925) should pay extra attention to the pure white eggplants, painstakingly procured by Clasby and lacking the bitterness usually associated with their purple counterparts.
At Carnevino (Venetian, 702-789-4141), chef Nicole Brisson actually begins menu development with Clasby’s produce. “We look at how beautiful Kerry’s stuff is and it inspires us,” she says. Look for Brisson’s branzino, cooked in parchment and augmented for fall with freshly dug potatoes (“Right from Roots Organic Farm in Los Olivos,” says Clasby, “they exude a ton of flavor”) and just-picked baby artichokes. The dish is set off with fennel and sweet, succulent Kishu tangerines, grown at a biodynamic orchard in Ojai.
At Spago (Caesars Palace, 702-369-6300), executive chef Eric Klein is stocking up his fall favorites, like squash, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Klein, who has worked with Clasby for 25 years, saves his great- est enthusiasm for Clasby’s apples. “I will be doing an apple experience,” he says. “I can use apples for chips, salad, juice, apple butter. The idea is to stay flexible and keep evolving.”
Not surprisingly, Clasby has fallen in love with Vegas and its innovative chefs. “I’m bringing family farms to the glittering desert,” she says. “Great produce allows the great chefs to shine, and I enjoy contributing to that.”