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Chef-restaurateur Kerry Simon dies

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Photo: Simon Hospitality Group

Once dubbed the “Rock-and-Roll chef” by Rolling Stone magazine, restaurateur Kerry Simon died last week after a two-year battle with a degenerative neurological disorder. He was 60 years old.

Simon was known primarily for his restaurants in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, including the current concept Carson Kitchen in Las Vegas. His portfolio includes Chuck’s: a Kerry Simon Kitchen in Chicago; Simon Kitchen + Bar in Palm Springs, CA; and Simon Mansion & Supper Club in the Dominican Republic, which are operated by Simon Hospitality Group with partner Cory Harwell.

But the prolific chef has had restaurants across the U.S. over the years.

His start in the restaurant business came at Little Caesars, where he worked as a teenager to earn money to buy an electric guitar. A coworker there was Bill Murray, who went on to Saturday Night Live fame.

Simon went on to graduate from the Culinary Institute of America. He got his start in Manhattan working in the kitchens of Jean-Jacques Rachou at La Côte Basque and Andre Soltner’s Lutece.

He worked with mentor and friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Layfayette in the Drake Hotel, earning a four-star review from The New York Times in 1988. At age 34, Simon was appointed by Ivana Trump as the youngest executive chef of The Plaza Hotel’s Edwardian Room, at the time a hotspot for celebrities in the music industry, earning his place as the “Rock and Roll chef.”

After a stint in Miami (Blue Star, Starfish and Max’s and Mercury), he opened Simon Kitchen & Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 2003, which was named one of Esquire magazine’s top new restaurants that year.

In the early 2000s, Simon competed in various versions of the Iron Chef cooking show, and appeared in an episode of Hell’s Kitchen.

In 2006, he opened Simon LA in Los Angeles, later also opening LA Market in the downtown LA Live complex.

In 2010, he also had Simon Prime Steakhouse and Martini Bar at the Hilton Atlantic City, NJ; and the burger concept KGB, or Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers, at Harrah’s in Las Vegas.

Simon Restaurant & Lounge opened inside the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas in 2013, though that restaurant recently closed. It was also the year he was diagnosed.

A spokeswoman for Simon said a celebration of his life is planned, but details were not available late Tuesday.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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