Hot Guys of Vegas – International Edition


Serving up a heaping helping of Sin City beefcake from all over the world…

Sometimes an accent can make your heart beat faster. Sean Connery‘s Irish brogue. Antonio Banderas‘ Spanish stylings. The suave sophistication of Daniel Craig and his “Queen’s English”. Then of course there are the men of Australia. Each are sexy on their own terms.

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With Las Vegas being the capital of entertainment, studs (and damsels) from all over the world make their way here, often competing to find their way to the top. Dancers, models, singers, fitness celebs, strippers…and sometimes even escorts (this isn’t Disney, folks). If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

I’ve been lucky enough to become acquainted with some stunning examples of manhood since this column began. Graced with charm, ambition, great personalities and boundless talent, the Hot Guys of Vegas continue to fascinate and astound. This is my latest entry in Hot Guys of VegasInternational Edition.

 

Fabian Batey Petrina – immigration coordinator/bodybuilder

 

Hot Guys of Vegas International

                                                              Fabian Batey Petrina

Where You’ve Seen Him – Events, Physique Magazines, Bodybuilding competitions

Wrap your mind around this reality – a hard-bodied hunk with the cheekbones of a top model and the physique of a Greek god is actually an intellectual on a social mission. Now accept that reality as a truth. Meet Fabian Batey Petrina.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Fabian grew up as a happy boy in Heidelberg. The son of a single mother, he remembers being very content. “Germany’s full of beautiful memories. I had an amazing childhood. Every time I think back on it, I just smile”.

Fabian’s mother grew up under rough circumstances with an abusive father and a mother who committed suicide when she was very young. Finding strength in the situation, she dedicated her own life to making her son’s a happy one. Then she fell in love with an American soldier and suddenly Fabian had a younger brother.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

When he was fourteen, Fabian’s family moved to Hawaii to be with his new stepfather. Things didn’t go well in this new environment. He describes himself as an awkward kid with glasses who didn’t know English well and was the target of mental and physical abuse by bullies. Things got so badly at school that he nearly followed his late grandmother’s path to escape the torment.

Then came the health issues. A tumor developed in one of his legs. A degenerative cartilage condition attacked the other. Multiple surgeries followed, with lengthy periods in a wheelchair and then crutches. But Fabian found a way to work through the emotional and physical pain. Bodybuilding ended up being his salvation.

As Fabian told Muscle & Performance magazine for their December 2017 issue:

The schoolyard became a battlefield in which I found myself dodging verbal and physical attacks, hiding in whatever shadow I could find. My left jaw and eye socket were fractured the one time I did try to stand up for myself, which shattered my self-confidence.

The one “friend” who remained by my side was the sport of bodybuilding. Working out became more than a hobby, it became my foundation, my sanity and my safe haven. Through hard work, I constructed an armor that took the target off my back and allowed me to stand up tall and be proud of who I am.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Not satisfied with developing his body, Fabian earned multiple degrees in English and German literature and language. While attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Mr. Petrina served as an English tutor, despite it being his own second language.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

                    Fabian with his beloved mother at college graduation…

Passionate about the power of words, this remarkable young man assisted foreign and mentally disabled students who had difficulty with remedial and developmental English. His goal was to assist them through the cultural differences they were experiencing like he had. To accomplish that, he coordinated a program designed to give a smooth transition into the college lifestyle.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

If that wasn’t enough to solidify his place as a true-life hero, Fabian was also a volunteer at the Honolulu Fire Department, assisted the homeless via Houseless ‘Ohana organization and devoted his free time to the staff at Honolulu’s The Queen’s Medical Center.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Of course, living in the Island State’s sunny paradise provided for plenty of outdoor adventures…and opportunities to tan his amazing physique. Eventually Fabian decided to move to mainland San Francisco. Now he splits his days between the Bay area, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

To me, living in Las Vegas is the perfect environment for bodybuilding. Not only is it extremely low cost of living, but the fitness community is huge here. My favorite part is the heat. I love desert heat. I don’t really like Vegas that much in the winter, but when it’s nice and hot it gives me energy.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Whenever possible, Fabian likes to hang out with his fitness pals at Venice’s famed Muscle Beach. There’s no better place in the physique culture for photo ops and networking.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

This ambitious young man earned his WBFF professional status last summer, which allowed him to compete in London. Plus he’s now a brand ambassador for the MuscleTech line of fitness products and apparel.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Fabian hasn’t forgotten the difficulties he faced as an immigrant. In fact, he’s now “paying it forward” in a sense. For the past three and a half years he’s been a Global Immigration Coordinator for Fragomen, a worldwide group of immigration consultants, solicitors and attorneys.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

It’s been a tough journey for this once-frail little dreamer. But Fabian’s story was never going to be ordinary. With his mother as his inspiration, Fabian believes that anything is possible. You’ve just go to be willing to work hard for it. Very hard.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Get up early, bust ass, dream big, believe in yourself, and always – ALWAYS – remember to SMILE. – Fabian Petrina

 

 

David Goldrake – magician/philanthropist

 

Hot Guys of Vegas International

                                                    David Goldrake

Where you’ve seen him – IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana, charity events

In 2006, Hugh Jackman portrayed a mysterious illusionist in the film The Prestige. Sporting a lush wardrobe of ornate vests and gorgeous tuxedos, the Aussie heartthrob had many fans wishing the aristocratic magician would ditch his costumes to reveal a little of his famous physique.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

In 2017, Vegas fans of that movie got their wish…in a sense…when Luxembourg’s David Goldrake opened IMAGINARIUM at Tropicana‘s historic showroom. Much like Hugh Jackman, the beefy entertainer fills his jackets with rippling muscles and physical ferocity. And in a tension-filled segment, he DOES strip down to be submerged for an underwater escape. You can breathe now.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

As gorgeous as he is on the outside, David Goldrake has the same beauty within. I’ve had the pleasure of building a friendship with this gentleman over the past few months and continue to be fascinated with the kind and gentle soul that forms his core.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Goldrake has performed throughout Europe for the better part of two decades. In 1997 he had his own weekly television show “Magic With David Goldrake”. A favorite at world-famous Magic Castle in Los Angeles, he estimates that he has entertained twenty million people around the world.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

David’s love for people is demonstrated by his dedication to philanthropic causes. He strive to raise awareness for issues dear to his heart, like Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner, a charity that assists children fighting cancer and their families.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

David entertaining children at SOS Village of Niger in 2011...

Then there’s SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde, a Luxembourg-based organization aimed at helping thousands of vulnerable children and their families worldwide. There are many more as well.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Early next month, David will be a guest performer at the annual AFAN Black and White Party, a fundraiser for Las Vegas men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS. The event takes place September 8th at Mandalay Bay’s DAYLIGHT Beach Club. Tickets are available by clicking here.

The fact that David is fluent in seven languages continues to intrigue me…as does his unique Luxembourg accent. He can strike up a conversation with anyone…about anything…and usually in their native tongue. His love for people comes through at every moment…that’s especially true when he’s in front of an audience.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

Many illusionists see their performance as being “in character”. For Goldrake, his actual personality is as much of the show as his props or sets. Ever observant of the audience, he engages as many guests as time and crowd size will allow. This makes each visit to the production unique and satisfying.

Last week it was announced that IMAGINARIUM would be coming to a close at the end of September. So now it’s more of a must see than ever. David’s eloquence, passion for the art of illusion and over-the-top sexiness set him apart from most other entertainers on the Strip.

Hot Guys of Vegas International

That makes IMAGINARIUM a thing of true beauty…just like its star. Don’t miss it.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7pm. Groupon is currently offering discounts starting at $26.00. Click here for tickets. 

Photos – Fabian Batey Petrina and David Goldrake via Facebook/Instagram, Wainwright Images, SOS Villages

 

 

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Culinary Superstars – Dora Pane: Careers, Fine Dining and “La Famiglia”


In the concluding segment of my series, Fresco Italiano’s General Manager brings the invaluable warmth of family gatherings to her restaurant guests…

Last month I introduced you to a pair of genuine Italians who have brought true authenticity to dining at Westgate Las Vegas. And while I focused on dynamic Chef Paola Bugli in that previous piece, it was with the promise that next time we’d get to know Fresco Italiano‘s general manager Dora Festa Pane.

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It seems fitting that “Festa” is part of this lovely lady’s name. After all, the Italian derivation of “festival” is the sensation you’ll have when dining at this authentic eatery. Each meal is meant to be an experience, something that Ms. Dora (as I like to call her) promises to every guest.

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In order to deliver on that commitment, the native of Naples dined at Fresco Italiano to see what it was like…and determine if she could put her own personal imprint onto the already-successful restaurant.

I came at the end of last year to eat, check things out and see what it was like. I didn’t introduce myself to the server or tell anyone that I was considering a position here. It’s better to just observe, analyze and think about what could be improved.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely happy. When this is your career, you find yourself analyzing so many things. Fresco Italiano is a beautiful place and there were many things to love. But their way of serving the guests could have been carried out much better.

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It’s easy to be a restaurant critic in today’s world of online user reviews, but Ms. Dora was honing her craft (and what makes a restaurant successful) long before Yelp! came along. Years of experience in high-profile establishments throughout the Vegas valley established her as an expert at her profession. So when that evening at Fresco Italiano didn’t quite meet her exacting standards, she accepted an invitation to make it her own.

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It may surprise you that a manager would be so candid about their own place of employment, but Ms. Dora is no-nonsense and outspoken. Fluent in several languages, she’s a colorful conversationalist who speaks from the heart. Her exposure to a myriad of cultures and atmospheres warrants your trust in her abilities.

As soon as I came in, I needed to learn about my crew…as a group and as individuals. It’s tough to do that when a place is already established. You need to be sweet AND sour. There were things to fix, but I didn’t come here to change people. Only to make them better.

When operating a restaurant, Ms. Dora does so with a mixture of passion and skill from the perspective of an actual owner. You might say that operating restaurants is in Dora’s blood. Her father had his own passion for great dining service and was a longtime maître d’ in her hometown of Naples before becoming a food critic. Although he passed away at a relatively young age, Dora credits him with much of her professionalism and knowledge. 

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After high school, she earned degrees in both Education and Psychology from Italy’s Cristo Re Magistral Institute. That unique combination might not be the norm for a career in restaurant management, but she feels it’s given her distinct advantages in this field.

I’m a teacher here at the restaurant…and psychology helps me with my work, too. It’s much easier to teach children because adults tend to resist. Everyone has something that holds them back. It could be their pride, birth sign, background life…whatever. My job is to overcome that.

When I came here in secret, my server clearly had something holding him back. Now that we’ve worked together, he’s the best server in the entire restaurant.

As we spoke in the darkened lounge a little before opening time, Ms. Dora happened to notice a few people standing at the entrance. Excusing herself, she greeted the group and invited them to have some wine at the bar until actual service began.

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“My bartender will probably get angry with me for doing his job” she winked as we resumed our conversation. That small moment of courtesy spoke mountains about Ms. Dora’s character. A lesser host would have simply asked them to return at the proper time. But this professional knows that a good impression lasts a lifetime.

It’s no wonder that Dora Pane has been involved with many wonderful Las Vegas restaurants in the valley. She’s been in the Vegas area for twenty-one years and dove headfirst into the big leagues by starting at MGM Grand.

Ms. Dora eyes lit up as she excitedly shared her history throughout Sin City. While moonlighting at dance clubs, she quickly rose from working as a food server to managing family-owned food shops. That was followed by a position as assistant manager at Terrazza at Caesars Palace. Overlooking the glorious Garden of the Gods, Terrazza was a fine-casual Italian restaurant located in the spot now occupied by Rao’s Las Vegas.

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Remaining within the Caesars family, Ms. Dora opened Voga, a modern Italian venue at nearby Flamingo Casino Resort. Seen above with her epicurean team, she proudly described ten years with Caesars corporation, which also included a stint at Steakhouse 46 (inside Flamingo). Sadly, it all came to a close when the company began doing huge cuts.

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What followed was a vast array of life experiences – running Robert De Niro’s Tuscan-themed AGO at Hard Rock Hotel (“that place was too classy for Hard Rock”), collaborating with Todd Moreau at both Hard Rock and Sunset Station (“we tend to follow each other”) and achieving new career standards at ALLEGRO of Wynn/Encore.

Things didn’t go as well as I would have liked at ALLEGRO. The hours were very bad. I had a young child at the time and no extended family here. Money isn’t everything when your children need you. So I left ALLEGRO after exactly one year.

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Yearning more of an atmosphere and schedule suited for a working mother, Ms. Dora settled in wonderfully at Venetian‘s Trattoria Reggiano (locals flock to the Downtown Summerlin’s flagship location). Spearheaded by Fifth Avenue Restaurant Group, Trattoria Reggiano brought her into a powerhouse that operates over forty establishments….and full circle with their involvement at Flamingo, Venetian and MGM Grand.

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After high school, eldest daughter Daniela graduated from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and moved to Naples. Son Gio has followed in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather by joining the staff at legendary Vegas Italian eatery Battista’s Hole in the Wall.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

And with youngest daughter Alessandra now grown into a lovely young lady, mother Dora has seized another opportunity to make an impact on the ever-changing Sin City dining scene.

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Perhaps the importance of family is why Ms. Pane agreed to spearhead the staff at Fresco Italiano. As I’ve said many times in this column, Westgate exemplifies the principles of dedication, service and commitment to guests that Las Vegas was founded on.

It’s a philosophy that hearkens back to the days of Mob-run Vegas, when the guests were all that mattered (well, maybe a few other things, too…). With the recent downturn in stock values and profits for Caesars and MGM Resorts properties, the current business model for Las Vegas has been put under intense scrutiny. Westgate was already ahead of the curve on a customer-based ideology that’s sorely in need of a city-wide renaissance.

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                     Sharing the Fresco Italiano family experience with my own…

It’s true that attractions, restaurants and even entire resorts come and go in this city. But the priceless importance of its people will remain. What makes any organization work, at its core, is the dedication and camaraderie of its team.

Ms. Dora Pane understands this. With her in the driver’s seat and Chef Paola Bugli in charge of the kitchen, a journey through the Tuscan landscape via Fresco Italiano is one you’ll want to repeat over and over again. Finisci di mangiare!

Dora Pane Fresco Italiano Westgate

Fresco Italiano is open for dinner 365 days a year at 5 pm – lunch hours vary by date. For more information or to place reservations call 702.732.5276.

Photos: Sammasseur, Dora Festa Pane, Westgate Las Vegas, Cyber-reef.com

 

 

 

Sexy Power Duos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo


The city’s best dancers are a husband and wife team that brings down the house each night at Palazzo’s BAZ….

Ask anyone what their must-do Vegas experiences are and you’ll undoubtedly get a list of familiar answers: a romantic stroll by the fountains of Bellagio…people-watching at Mon Ami Gabi…drinks at a favorite cocktail lounge.

For this writer, no trip to Vegas is complete without a seat at the Palazzo Theater for BAZ: A Musical Mash-up. And that experience was recently taken to new heights with the addition of husband-and-wife dance team Sarah Le Clear and Alejandro Domingo.

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Stunning to look at (Alejandro was featured as “Best Abs” in my column four years ago) and a revelation to see in action, this power duo exudes every aspect of power, sensuality, sophistication and the sheer stunning artistry of dance. Audiences may recognize them from nearly five years at David Saxe‘s glorious VEGAS! The Show, but BAZ has unleashed their abilities in a way rarely seen on any stage.

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I recently spoke with the couple after seeing BAZ for the the 27th time (yes, really) and invited them to participate in a fun Q & A. I’m honored to say that they excitedly agreed. But before we get to that, here’s a little about them and how they came together as a professional team.

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Sarah and sister Julianne were born in southern California and grew up in the Bay area of San Francisco. Their parents were college sweethearts who encouraged their daughters’ love of performance arts. So, Sarah began formal dancing classes at age five.

I started intense ballet training at a very young age at Contra Costa Ballet Centre. A very prestigious school that I took very seriously, but I knew I wanted to study all aspects of dance. This is when I started my training at Dance Connection Performing Arts Center in Concord California, under the direction and ownership of Paula Henson.

My years at the studio is when I flourished the most…I became involved in the competition aspect of the studio competing all over California through the competition season. I was so thrilled to be expanding my repertoire of styles.

Years of practice and competitions were rewarded by a Sue Pipo Memorial Dance Scholarship, and Sarah’s future in the world of dance was assured.

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After graduation I auditioned to be an NBA Dancer for  the Golden State Warriors and became the youngest on the team. From there I moved to LA to continue my training at EDGE Performing Arts Center.

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Alejandro is from Buenos Aires. A rare combination of brains, brawn and grace, he played soccer and piano in his youth before pursuing a career in civil engineering. Despite his athletic frame and dashing looks, the Argentinian native enrolled in dance classes at the age of sixteen just to overcome shyness. By eighteen this natural talent was already touring with the salsa-heavy Latin musical Baracatun.

Many entertainers credit their parents and family for setting them on the show-business path. Ale is no exception:

My parents, Jorge and Ana, are just the best parents you could ask for. They always have supported my crazy dreams, and me, even though it meant being away from them for long periods of time. I have also a very smart and sweet little sister called Mariana, four years younger than me. I’m very proud of her and the person she is becoming.

Alejandro received a scholarship to further his dance studies in ballet, jazz, contemporary and partnering at Teatro Colón and the National Institute of Art in Buenos Aires. In 2006 he left Argentina to perform at the Chateau du Versailles in the renowned Fêtes de Nuit. After that he settled for periods in both Paris and Barcelona then continued his training throughout Europe and the United States.

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In 2008 the couple met in Hollywood, Florida when both were hired as dancers and aerialists for Royal Caribbean‘s Explorer of the Seas. Rehearsing nine hours a day, six days a week can bring people very close…and so can a first date at the local Martini Bar. That was a decade ago, and the gorgeous couple has never looked back.

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You might think that sharing the workplace and being together around the clock might tighten the pressure on a relationship, but for Sarah and Alejandro, their art is what brought them together and keeps them strong.

As Ale tells it:

Sarah and I met working together. Since then we have been blessed with sharing the same stage in many different productions, something quite unusual in our line of work. We have had our share of ups and downs in this crazy performers’ world.

I personally love working with Sarah because I always know that she has my best interest at heart…and I have hers. So any criticism or note we give to each other always comes from a caring and honest place and it’s intended to make the other person better.

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Sarah added:

The tense moments are very rare for us because we know how lucky we are to still be performing together. More than anything, it’s fun. A lot of hard work goes into it but it’s worth it!

I asked the couple if either of them tends to “take the lead” during their rehearsals….

We have both been “dance captains” so it depends on what we are rehearsing for, honestly. We pay attention to what the other one needs because if we are going to look and feel good on stage we both need to feel comfortable. (Alejandro)

Hahaha…I think we both want to take the lead! That’s the thing when you’re married to your dance partner…you both want to be in charge. But I think we have a very strong communication and respect for the other so we’re able to tell each other our needs as a partner. Ale is a fabulous ballroom teacher and I will say I have learned a lot from him as far as execution goes. (Sarah)

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Life in Vegas has definitely agreed with the couple. Along with having a great collection of friends in the community, the two enjoy much that the city has to offer. Alejandro offered these insights:

In my free time I like reading, going to the gym and to the movies. I’m not great at cooking but do enjoy it. I always enjoy trying new restaurants and Vegas is an awesome place for that.

I don’t dance much when I’m not on stage, but I have always enjoyed salsa dancing. It’s the first style I ever learned and it’s so much fun in social settings. I’m not a nightclub kind of guy. I prefer going to a chill bar with friends and having a drink, listen to some music and have a good conversation.

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I like taking Sarah out for dinner to a good restaurant and buying her nice things. I love Sinatra at the Wynn…the atmosphere and awesome background music. For a “cheat meal” I’d have to say Vege-Way…some of the most delicious vegan burgers you’ll have.

We also enjoy taking some much needed time off and going on a relaxing vacation. So far my favorite spot has been the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

Sarah enjoyed Mexico as well, but she’s partial to a different vacation destination:

Hawaii!!!!! We make an effort to spoil ourselves with nice vacations. We also love going to the M Resort pool during the summer as well as trying new restaurants on the Strip or downtown. I love cheat meals!!! Mon Ami Gabi is one of our favorites.

At my “seasoned” age I’m not much for the nightclub scene anymore…and because we perform so much we tend to enjoy our nights off with no dancing. Although the occasional line dance night at Stoney’s with my girls is always a blast. And we love catching new shows and supporting fellow performers.

I was a competitive swimmer for eleven years, so swimming is a fun hobby of mine. Fitness is a huge part as well so I enjoy the gym. And of course I have my “guilty pleasure” hobbies which include “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “The Bachelor”, haha.

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It seems that animal rescue is a common thread among cast members of BAZ. Along with Anne Martinez and Ron Remke, the Domingos have a special place in their hearts for the Vegas community’s needy animal population.

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                                              Little Milo loves his toys…

“We both love animals and support the work of amazing nonprofits like The Animal Foundation“, Ale stated. Sarah continued “I am a member of the Humane Society and like to donate to any charity that helps and aids animals..this is very important to me! We have one dog named Milo and he is our baby. He is a rescue dog and has become a part of the family!”

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Speaking of family, I inquired as to where the Domingos saw themselves twenty years from now. Both hinted at the possibility of little dancers in their future.

Maybe I will go back to school and become an engineer. I’v wanted to finish that career. Hopefully we will have kids by then and we will be choreographing for Broadway, cruise ships, or another Vegas show.

Bob Fosse’s work has always been an inspiration for me. I would love to perform some of his work on stage someday. I absolutely love his style and legacy to the dance world. I would also love to work with choreographers like Jerry Mitchell, Sergio Trujillo and Andy Blankenbuehler.

Maybe we will own our own production company… Who knows? (Alejandro)

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Sarah shares her partner’s admiration for the work of Bob Fosse, too:

I would love to work with Broadway choreographers or any master of “Fosse” style like Ann Reinking. Any Broadway show or tour would be a dream of mine, but I also consider myself very lucky and grateful for the career that I’ve had thus far.

The exciting thing about this question is that I just don’t know. We are gypsies and follow the work. Vegas has been incredibly good to us, but the “show” aspect of the city is changing. I do know that we will always be involved in the industry, one way or another.

And by then, maybe we’ll have our own “little performers” in the making.

It’s true that the future of production shows in Las Vegas seems rather uncertain, especially recently. The sometime-abrupt closures of long-running hits combined with many short-term failures reflects a changing landscape for Strip entertainment.

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The Domingos left secure positions with VEGAS! The Show after nearly five years to join BAZ. Only a short time later, they learned that the last performance would be on July 29th, 2018.

As they prepare for an emotionally-charged final weekend with this landmark production, neither displayed any regret for coming aboard at Palazzo‘s signature musical. Instead, they’ll look back with fondness and gratitude:

This is a tough one to talk about and not get emotional. I will never forget the very first time I saw BAZ two years ago. I left the theater feeling completely overwhelmed with what I’d just experienced and witnessed. I remember thinking to myself “What an incredible show to be a part of”.

When Alejandro and I received the call with an offer we were absolutely blown away. After our time at VEGAS! The Show I was now being given the opportunity to be a part of a production that I love and admire. Words can’t really describe how I feel about being a part of the magic of BAZ…especially with Alejandro. (Sarah)

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                      “The first time I saw BAZ”. Sarah Le Clear-Domingo

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced this was where we were meant to be at this moment in our lives and careers.  It’s a memory I will forever cherish, and will always put a smile on my face.

I absolutely love the movies BAZ is based on, and have been a fan of the production since it first opened at Light in Mandalay Bay. The level of talent is incredible, and I’m fortunate enough to share it with the person I love the most, my beautiful wife.

It also allowed me to go back to my beginnings in ballroom and perform in a style that has always been so close to my heart. It’s a show that I truly believe in and that I am so proud to be a part of. There’s nothing else quite like it in the city, and I think Vegas is losing a true gem.

This show reminds people that love is the only thing really worth living for, no matter what situation life throws at you. Yes, it can cause pain, but only if you were lucky enough to truly love someone.

BAZ has real content and real entertainment. I would love for people to remember its message alongside with the talent that brought it to life: “Love is like … oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing… Love lifts us up where we belong.” (Alejandro)

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BAZ: A Musical Mash-up concludes its two-year run at Palazzo Casino Resort this weekend.

Photos: Alejandro and Sarah Le Clear-Domingo via Facebook, Nicholas Foote, Patrick Rivera, banner photo by David Brenot Photography, video courtesy of Dominick Pepe

From Mormon to Male Revue: One Man’s Evolution, Vegas-style


Chippendales performer Ryan Worley’s solitary road to redemption…

Sin City’s adult production shows have been around for decades. In other cities, sexy performers might be viewed with a certain disdain, but here they are regarded with a unique reverence.

The showgirls of Jubilee! and Folies Bergere will always be iconic. The men of Aussie Heat are genuine bonafide trained dancers of impressive skill. The ladies of SEXXY and FANTASY work hard for the money. And then there are the Chippendales…a macho, muscular troupe whose name is synonymous with classy male entertainment.

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       Ryan and fellow Chipp James Davis don purple to support LGBTQ youth…

In a recent article I called the men of ChippendalesShirtless Angels of Charity“. They do indeed spend plenty of time contributing wonderful work for the Las Vegas community. But first and foremost, they’re a hunky bunch of guys who grind out sets in the gym before bumping and grinding onstage.

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Twenty-seven year old Ryan Worley never imagined that one day he’d be taking off his clothes for a paying audience. Raised within the strict guidelines and culture of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Worley was as far from Chippendales stock as one could imagine.

Yet we don’t always know what’s around the corner or lies over the horizon. And Ryan’s life so far has been anything but predictable.

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                         Ryan (far left) in a family photo with his siblings…

I was born in California on August 6th, 1990 and am the second oldest of four kids. We were raised in the Mormon religion and devoted to the church. After high school I was dating a girl who was not a Mormon…and being with her made me not want to serve my two-year mission.

Not volunteering for missionary work is very frowned upon within the culture. People will go as far as to shunning you for it…and that was the case for me.

Instead, I went to college at Brigham Young University in Idaho. This is a Mormon school and they have three campuses (Provo, Utah is the largest and most popular). I completed three semesters there and eventually transferred to Utah Valley University.

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While attending Utah Valley University, Ryan lived with a friend whose father was a Mormon Bishop. It was clear that, despite avoiding missionary service and not being very active any longer, his exposure to the Latter Day Saints Movement was deeply entrenched in every aspect of his life.

At the age of twenty, Worley was attracted to a fellow employee at the pizza parlor where he moonlighted. This young Mormon lady was active in the church and got Ryan to attend again. Their relationship would set the stage for some major obstacles ahead.

We dated for two years…and weren’t “the best Mormons”. As you may know, there are strict rules against sex before marriage. When we decided to wed, she wanted to have our ceremony in the Temple. I personally didn’t care, but it was important to her.

In order to do have a proper Mormon service, we followed the ritual to get “clean”. We met with our church’s leader, confessed our pre-marital sex, followed the required steps and waited the appropriate amount of time.

And once we got married, the sex just stopped.

Physical rejection from his new spouse was devastating to this virile young man, especially after all he’d done to make things “right” within their culture. But Ryan wasn’t about to give up on the relationship, so he sought out ways to set things back on course.

She had no desire to be intimate with me. I took it personally, as any man in that situation would. I brought it up several times but she didn’t see it as an issue. We spent three years trying to solve the problem. Marriage is very sacred to me and divorce runs through my family…I wanted to be the one to break the curse.

We went to the doctor because I assumed it was hormonal. All of her blood levels came back normal. I tried other things like reading the book The Five Love Languages. (a self-help manual that’s been on the NY Times best-seller list since 2009). I made sure that everything was perfect for her in every way.

Someone once told me when we first married that the number one cause of divorce is unmet expectations. That sentence resonated inside me. I made sure that all her expectations were met. I bought her a house, we had cars and I worked sixty hours a week at two jobs. It was so hard, but it gave her the time she wanted.

I’d done everything I could and felt the issue didn’t come from my end. She wanted to do counseling but everything a counselor would have us do would seem like homework and it wouldn’t feel genuine. Something like sex needs to be intimate…not forced.

That is when I got into fitness. If I looked good then she would want to be with me again, right? That isn’t what happened, but I did find my love for the fitness industry.

The gym became my sanctuary and a place where I could let go.

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Throwing himself into the lifestyle of intense fitness was very therapeutic. While building his body, Ryan acquired a new level of self-esteem which was critical in this period of rejection. The change to his physique was astounding. Still, it wasn’t enough to win back desire from his young bride.

Three years of being rejected took its toll…I felt so ugly and unwanted. She began to feel more like a sister or a roommate than my actual wife. I told her that I wanted a divorce and she didn’t put up much of a fight. We sold our house and she went back to southern California…I moved north to the Salt Lake City area.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

Ryan dove head-first into the fitness industry, serving as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist for a company called Complete Nutrition. While adjusting to a newly-single life in his small apartment, he was helping others get their own lives back on track. Knowing how to design customized meal plans for clients was invaluable when Worley planned to enter his first bodybuilding competition.

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Spending hours at home on his stationary bike, Ryan discovered the documentary The Perfect Physique on Netflix (readers may recall that I covered the red-carpet premiere of this film at Palms Casino during the 2015 Mr. Olympia).

Ever since I got into fitness I’d wanted to do modeling and end up on a cover of a magazine. TJ Hoban, who is a well-known fitness model, was talking in the film about the difficulties he’d faced, like when he had a serious onstage accident during a Chippendales performance back in the 90’s.

I’d heard about Chippendales before but didn’t know exactly what it was or what it entailed. What I did know was that if my idol TJ Hoban was part of it, then it must be something great.

I went online and immediately filled out an application, submitted a few pictures and told a little about myself…but I never actually expected to hear back from them.

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                                        Actor/model/fitness star TJ Hoban…

Even though his own performance experience was limited to a small Mormon singing/dancing group, Ryan was bursting with excitement…and hope. After applying, he joked with his Complete Nutrition employer that if Chippendales hired him he’d need to give notice.

Two weeks later, an email arrived from the show’s General Manager for an invitation-only audition:

I needed to rent a car for the drive from Utah to Vegas because my own was so crappy. Nobody knew about the audition. When I arrived early in the day, it was straight to the gym to pump up and look my best.

I was one of about fifteen guys there…and they all looked incredible. Kristen Makhathini (the show’s General Manager at the time) led the audition and had us take our shirts off for head shots.

We got on stage and began learning choreography. This was all very new to me. After about ten minutes, they split us into groups and mine was first. We ran through the routine a couple of times, then Kristen said “Alright guys, we are going to start cutting people so if you hear your name we don’t need you anymore and thank you for coming out”. The next sentence made my stomach drop: “Everyone in the first group except for Ryan can go home. Thank you”.

These other guys had flown in from all over the world and it was over for them in less than twenty minutes! My heart was beating out of my chest! They narrowed us down to four of us and said we’d know in a week. There were two spots, one for touring and another for the Vegas show. The tour manager came up to me and asked if I was able to get a passport. “I think I want to steal you for the tour” she said.

My mind went crazy…why did she just say “steal”? Did that mean I got the Vegas spot? That evening I watched the show for the first time, drove back to Utah overnight and never told anyone about it.

When the call came that he’d be a part of the Vegas production, it was time to shock his boss with the news of what he’d done…and to give that resignation notice they’d kidded about.

Along with this sudden change in his life’s course was the realization that he’d be stirring up controversy with his conservative friends and family.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

When I asked him what kind of reactions he received after telling people about Chippendales, Ryan sighed and took a moment to collect his thoughts. He was reluctant to slam the culture he’d been a part of for so long, but felt that he’d somehow broken free of someone else’s control and was ready to speak out about it.

My family has had a rough time with my new career but I knew they probably would. They don’t fully understand it or know what it is.

I’m no longer a member of the Mormon church but my friends and loved ones are and I want to respect that. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but the truth is that they teach you to be close-minded. I remember how my siblings and I were treated after our parents divorced. We sat in the back of the church, alone, like outcasts among our own people.

Mormons have their own stance on issues and you have to accept them as yours. When I grew up, I found myself asking “Are these values mine because I’m naturally a good person or were they were taught to me by the church?. Even now I’m not sure, but my mom did bring me up to be a respectful man.

Worley went on to discuss things about the Mormon culture that still concern him. Matters like their unequal treatment of minorities and the LGBTQ community. He feels that’s why a lot of Americans are now leaving the church…and why it currently targets impressionable third-world countries.

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But now that he’s found a new “family” with his Chippendales brothers and their socially-positive work, Ryan Worley is ready to move forward and continue making things better for himself…and others.

I’ve been a Chippendale for almost a year now and love everything it has to offer. I get to do charity work in the community and appear on numerous TV shows. It feels like my years of struggle are over. This is my big break…I go to work and people cheer for me!

I reached out to TJ Hoban and Kandice King (directer of The Perfect Physique), told them my story and how much that documentary changed my life. They seemed very happy to have helped make my life a little better.

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After interviewing Ryan for this piece, I attended a performance of Chippendales at the Rio. Sitting in front of me, right up against the stage, was a group of his buddies. They’d come to Vegas to see for themselves what their longtime friend was now a part of. And they cheered just as wildly as everyone else in the audience.

Watching Ryan’s friends gather around him in the lounge after the show was a thrill to witness and experience. This young man had finally gained confidence and acceptance from his peers. And he’d done it on his own terms.

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“I’ve always felt like I was meant for big things and want to influence people in a positive way. Maybe my story can do the same for others”.

                                                                                                    Ryan Worley

You can read more about Ryan and his current projects in my column “Hot Guys of Vegas – Eye of the Beholder“.

Chippendales performs nightly at Rio Las Vegas. Click here for showtimes and tickets via our friend at VegasFool.com.

Photos: Sammasseur, Ryan Worley, The Perfect Physique, Chippendales via Facebook

 

 

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars – Chef Paola Bugli


Profiling a Chef who brings true Italian authenticity to Westgate’s “Fresco Italiano”…

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

Outside the entrance to Fresco Italiano, two adorable Vespa scooters are amusingly parked. Almost symbolically, it seems as though they’ve been waiting for the right pair of riders to hop aboard and take control.

Inside, that very thing has taken place for two Italian immigrants who recently arrived to helm Fresco’s kitchen and operations. Despite the restaurant already being an established hit, this pair has elevated the Tuscan eatery to new heights.

Regular readers might recognize Fresco Italiano as my very first column when I launched this site last summer. Since then, I’ve dined here repeatedly, savoring every wonderful morsel. Not only is the food to die for, but the atmosphere and service scream “Italian authenticity”.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

                            General Manager Dora Pana and Chef Bugli…

As you enjoy the dining experience, your party might be greeted by a lovely blonde with a distinctive Naples accent. General Manager Dora Pane loves to chat with her guests, lending a family-like ambiance to every visit. She’ll remind you of that favorite aunt who invites you to sit down at her kitchen table and “mangiare“. (I’ll be spending time with Ms. Pane for a profile article very soon.)

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

But of course, the big draw for this type of meal is the magic that happens inside the kitchen. That’s where Chef Paola Brugli comes in. This elegant native of Florence is the Executive Chef for Fresco Italiano and an absolute treat to meet. As busy as she is in the kitchen, Ms. Bugli also finds time to engage her guests and share a mutual enthusiasm for great dishes.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

Kitchen time was ingrained in Chef Paola’s family traditions. She learned from her mother and grandmother how to make pasta, polenta and sauces. They worked together as a team, each doing something different to prepare a complete meal. Lessons from those collaborative efforts would be invaluable once Bugli decided to pursue a career in the culinary arts.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

                                                           Florence, Italy…

Chef Paola enrolled in the Istituto Professionale Alberghiero Aurelio Saffi of Firenze Italy in 1977. There she achieved degrees in Culinary Arts and Hotel Management, then spent the next several decades honing techniques in fabulous restaurants and destinations throughout Italy.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

The shores of the Unites States eventually welcomed Chef Bugli to a new chapter and more career adventures. First came Atlanta, where she spent a decade in the kitchens of several noteworthy restaurants, holding positions as Sous Chef, Pastry Chef, Chef de Cuisine and Executive Chef.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

                                          Lumiere Place Casino Hotel…

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

                                      House of Savoy Italian Eatery…

Eight years ago Bugli settled into the St. Louis area after capturing the attention of a recruiter for Pinnacle Entertainment. There she spent a year and a half as Executive Chef for the now-shuttered House of Savoy, an authentic riverfront Italian eatery in the gorgeous Lumière Place Casino Hotel. This turned out to be her first position in a gaming resort, but fortunately would not be her last.

As luck would have it, Chef Paola worked under the mentorship of Jeffrey DeVito, current Vice President of Food and Beverage at Westgate Las Vegas. As she told me “It was my first job in a casino and I was a little concerned about that, but Mr. DiVito was always extremely supportive”.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

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During her time in St. Louis, Chef Paolo proudly achieved United States citizenship in a wonderful ceremony held at the new National Archives, which was inaugurated for the occasion. The variety of cultures, climates and opportunities of this nation were now hers to explore without limit.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

                                                     Sea Island Resort…

Next up was the lush Sea Island Resort, south of Savannah on the sunny coast of Georgia. There Bugli served as Chef de Cuisine for Tavola, a formal yet rustic Italian dining experience. Tavola‘s philosophy is “the soul of Italy isn’t just found on the menu. It’s around the table” which might explain why the Florence native was drawn there.

After dabbling in some consulting work in Savannah, it was off to Biloxi, Mississippi for a new position with Beau Rivage Casino Resort. As Room Chef for Stalla Italian Restaurant, Chef Bugli was once again able to bring her authentic style to another part of the United States. ”

Her philosophy of simple, fresh ingredients (“super-simple is the key” she likes to say) made her very popular with the resort’s guests. So much so that she remained there for over four years, creating an indelible mark on the MGM Resorts property.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

     Chef Bugli was featured in “Women in Business” at Beau Rivage Resort…

Alas, a change in corporate management began to crush this independent artist’s creativity, so it was once again time to move on. When asked if it was difficult to make so many changes in her life, her response was candid. “Maybe I’m a masochist but I like the challenges. Sometimes you have to find the right way to part. I don’t believe in creating failures…I like to give opportunities”.

As has been the case of so many gifted culinary artists I’ve profiled, Chef Bugli found new creative horizons via the food and beverage team at Westgate Las Vegas. In January she took over as Executive Chef for Fresco Italiano, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. And she was once again on a team overseen by Jeffrey DiVito.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

Coming aboard an established and successful venture would indeed offer Chef Paola some trials and tribulations but she was up to the task.

Everything in a restaurant is a connected process. A kitchen is like a pirate crew…we’re weird. There needs to be creative cohesiveness from front to back.

Working with General Manager Dora Pane, the two have taken the operation and streamlined it to reflect their own styles.

Food is so much about energies…your whole self. Shake people up a bit and you get good results. So we’re improving things like the service steps and our wine offerings. I’m also adjusting the flavor profile and retraining the staff with my cooking methods.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

When asked what procedures she referred to, Chef Bugli explained:

It’s not enough just to follow a recipe’s ingredients. It’s the steps that matter. You see, a sauce isn’t just throwing everything into a pot and letting it boil. Certain ingredients have to be sauteed together first to let their flavors develop. Then others like tomatoes are added afterwards. You can taste the difference by doing things in the proper order.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

Attention to detail is also reflected on the ingredients she purchases for her dishes.

The culture at our restaurant is respectful of the environment. In Italy it’s a concept called Zero-Kilometer Cooking. We can’t get all locally-produced foods being in the desert, but we can come pretty close. It’s also necessary to change our offerings depending on the season. A winter tomato won’t taste the same as one in July. People will know the difference!

Making a difference is what Chef Paola’s cooking is all about:

Guests are more educated now. Everyone is a connoisseur, so we approach Fresco Italiano with a friends-and-family atmosphere. This may be casual fine dining, but we want people to leave feeling like they’ve had an experience.

When asked about her new life in Las Vegas, Chef Paola gave a bit of a shrug. “I haven’t had time to get to know Vegas yet, really, except through the people I’ve met at Westgate. When I settle in, maybe I’ll start up a local women’s chef group”.

As for Sin City sights, the Florence native had plenty to say about the Strip. “Las Vegas replicates so many famous landmarks and they’ve done it beautifully. You’ve got Paris, Venice, Rome, Egypt. It’s amazing”.

She did have a word of warning for any future resort planners, though. “Vegas can do anything else they want, but they’d better leave Florence alone. We’re already perfect!” she chuckled wildly.

Chef Paola Bugli Fresco Italiano

Fresco Italiano is open for dinner 365 days a year at 5 pm – lunch hours vary by date. For more information or to place reservations call 702.732.5276.

Photos: Sammasseur, Chef Paola Bugli, TripAdvisor, Yelp!, Beau Rivage Casino Resort, Seas Island Resort, Westgate Las Vegas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westgate’s Culinary Superstars: Chef Aaron Losch


Getting to know the big man behind the resort’s food and beverage services…

Last fall I met with one of Westgate Resort‘s executive team to discuss this series on their culinary team. During our luncheon we were unexpectedly joined by a third person. Big, burly, and with a serious expression on his face, this mountain of a man made an imposing first impression. Then he broke into an enormous smile…and everything changed.

Chef Aaron Losch is a fascinating person to watch in action. Omnipresent, he seems to be everywhere at once. Being Director of Culinary Operations over the vast array of Westgate’s food and beverages, that perception surely works to his advantage. His presence is felt even when he’s not around.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                                Westgate’s Fresco Italiano’s lounge and bar area…

Now that I’ve covered most of the Westgate dining outlets at this point, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Chef Losch. He’s introduced me to other members of his team, invited me to sample new offerings at The Court and greeted me in passing while going about his day. But we never got to sit down and actually converse in depth until recently.

We started off our interview by getting a little dirty, so to speak. I’d checked out Chef Losch’s Facebook page and was fascinated by posts about him participating in Tough Mudder competitions. The images were a far cry from his usual pristine white attire, so I had to find out how someone gets involved in those extremely dirty endurance events.

“Why not do something insanely stupid?” was his remarkably direct response.  The trendy gauntlet-like courses are usually over ten miles long and test mental as well as physical strengths. “Your first one is a rite of passage. Every first-timer gets an electric shock” he said.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

These courses are made up of several kinds of obstacles, like plunges into ice water, monkey bars slicked with butter…and live wires hanging over a field of mud. “It’s really extreme” he laughed. “People go down from the electric shocks and they don’t get up. It’s really funny to watch”.

My face must have conveyed its own kind of shock, as Chef Aaron continued to laugh. He told me that his nine-year-old daughter participates in Tough Mudder, too. Losch doesn’t worry about coddling her, though. A natural prankster, he has a unique angle on parenting. “I’m the kind of dad who wraps grapes to make them look like chocolate Easter eggs”.

The Losch family lifestyle is all about adventure. Chef Aaron, wife Jamie and children Abbie (9) and Ethan (7) love to travel. Whether it’s zip-lining in Mexico, swimming with dolphins, visiting the Statue of Liberty or dabbling in Harry Potter’s magic at Universal Studios California, the quartet of thrill-seekers always has a blast.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

Before marrying Jamie eleven years ago, Losch had already covered a lot of ground in the culinary world. Born in Santa Monica, he grew up in Port Angeles Washington. At nineteen he moved to my area of Portland Oregon to enroll in Western Culinary Institute. The school later became Le Cordon Bleu of Portland before permanently closing its doors in 2017.

Like many of his Westgate colleagues, Chef Aaron got his first taste of kitchen experience at an early age. “My parents told me to get a job while I was in high school. I applied for a dishwashing spot at the family restaurant of a friend. It was one of only two fine-dining restaurants in Port Angeles”.

It wasn’t long before Losch moved from scrubbing plates to working on the line. “After awhile I got to do prep in the kitchen and ended up being at the restaurant for three years. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush!”. That thrill motivated the budding chef to change his career plans from accounting to culinary school.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                                             The Mansion at MGM Grand…

Moving to Vegas, Chef Aaron gained experience in several high profile locations. “Michael Mina’s Nobhill Tavern was my intro to fine dining in Las Vegas”. That famed spot, which was home to the legendary Cable Car Cocktail, shuttered in 2013. His tenure at MGM Grand also included The Mansion, one of the most opulent and revered destinations in the city. Despite the prestige of working in that exclusive location, the pace just wasn’t for him. “I wanted to shoot myself. It was so up-and-down there. I wanted volume!”.

Within those pre-Westgate years were a collection of valuable opportunities and beneficial experiences. One of them was the chance to open a restaurant from the ground up for Piero Selvaggio. “Caffe Giorgio Ristorante at Mandalay Place was the first one that I got to build out. It wasn’t the fit I was looking for either, so I only lasted eight months”.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

BOA Steakhouse at Forum Shops of Caesars was more to Losch’s liking. “I walked in, got recognized and was hired on the spot. I went from Sous Chef to Executive Sous Chef and remained there for another year and a half”.

Throughout the ensuing years, quality and prestige went hand-in-hand in the varied establishments that added to Chef Aaron’s portfolio. Renaissance Hotel (home to ENVY Steakhouse), Wynn/Encore, T-Bones Chophouse at Red Rock Resort…all fabulous restaurants recognized for their top-quality dining. While at T-Bones, he received an award for his contributions to the Vegas Food and Wine Festival.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

Chef Losch was wooed away from Red Rock by an opportunity to work with famed hotelier/restaurateur Chef Alex Stratta. Stratta is best known to Las Vegans as the name behind Alex and Stratta at Wynn Las Vegas. Hired as Corporate Executive Chef for the Stratta Restaurant group, his time there was a mixed blessing.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                                With Chef Alex Stratta (center) at TAPAS…

“The level that Chef Stratta was doing things was at one I’d never seen before”, he told me. Despite those high ambitions, Stratta’s desire to bring Strip-quality fare to outlying areas didn’t quite work out. Efforts such as Tapas at Tivoli Village and an Italian steakhouse at The Gramercy either closed quickly or didn’t happen at all. A partnership with Vegas-based Preferred Restaurant Brands also collapsed.

But such is life in a profession where concepts soar, tastes change and new opportunities lie in wait. For Chef Losch, that next adventure would take place at a legendary destination, itself in the midst of reinvention and elevation.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                                          Westgate’s Silk Road Asian Bistro…

Now the new Executive Chef of Sid’s Cafe, Losch worked alongside noteworthy names like Grant MacPherson and Charles Wilson. Last August he accepted a promotion to his current position. “As Director of Culinary Operations, my job is to help the chefs in the room to be creative”.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                         With award-winning Pastry Chef Stephen Sullivan…

“I’ve worked with a lot of really good chefs” he continued “but some are not always the best people. I’ve been very lucky with my team here”. That collection includes the chefs that I’ve previously profiled on this site as well as his four assistants. Together they’re the driving force behind the restaurants, events, catering and banquet menus.

Being in charge of so many aspects of a department can be daunting, but out of it comes results. “I want to earn my position…I’m my own worst critic. The pressure comes from wanting to succeed”.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                                                          Fresco Italiano…

As the resort continues to evolve alongside ever-changing preferences, so do the concepts that Westgate’s culinary team rolls out. “Falling back on ‘What we always do’ never works. If you’re continuously doing the same thing, time after time, but expecting a different result…well, that’s the definition of insanity. You have to change and re-evaluate your approach. Of course, ‘corporate’ has their own ideas, too. You’ve got to integrate that all together. Ultimately, I want my bosses to succeed”.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

                                Entrance to Westgate’s “Restaurant Row”…

During our conversation, Chef Losch and I were joined by Gabrielle PerezGeneral Manager of Casual Dining. She and Chef Aaron had previously worked together at Wynn Las Vegas. It was clear from their camaraderie that being at Westgate was a positive and beneficial change of pace. Especially from the corporate mentality at other Vegas resorts.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

“I enjoy building strong and dynamic teams that are passionate, committed and engaged to making hospitality fun, beautiful and profitable”, she told me. “I love the atmosphere at Westgate. There’s lots of professionalism here. So much of it that I’m continually amazed. But it’s mixed with fun and plenty of creativity”.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

Such positive words coming from a member of his own team must make Chef Aaron feel very proud. Despite the challenges of his field, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his personal time as much if the culinary team wasn’t a smooth-running machine.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

After our interview, Chef Aaron showed me his office in the depths of the resort’s inner workings. Covering the walls and shelves were memorabilia and mementos. Crests from Game of Thrones. Disney character statues. Bottles of Las Vegas Knights wine. “I LOVE the Knights”, he exclaimed.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

When I mentioned how serene things seemed in his personal space, Chef Aaron chuckled. “It’s not always this way. Sometimes I have a line of people out the door. Situations need to be addressed, emergencies come up, decisions need to be made. But that’s why I’m here”.

With things going so well at Westgate, it’s safe to say that everyone is glad that Chef Aaron is the big man in charge. And that’s why dining at the re-invigorated off-Strip resort is such a satisfying and mouth-watering experience.

Chef Aaron Losch Westgate

For a list of Westgate’s casual and fine dining options, menus and operating hours, click here.

Photos: Sammasseur, Chef Aaron Losch, Jamie Losch, Vegas.com, Vegas Food and Wine Festival, Tough Mudder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Eye of the Beholder


Checking out the beauty of Sin City’s hunks from both sides of the lens…

For some guys, the camera is like a best friend. It can tell a story, show the world who you are…or allow you to share your vision with others. In this edition of “Hot Guys of Vegas”, I introduce you to professional models and photographers who are just as beautiful.

NICK AYLER – Deejay/model/actor

 

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

                                                          Nick Ayler

Where you’ve seen him – Bond at Cosmopolitan, Abercrombie & Fitch, GQ

Some men make the world look better just by being so handsome. Deejay/actor/model Nick Ayler makes it sound better too. This hot hunk is a nightclub favorite who brings his own take on music to dance spots in Vegas, Los Angeles and around the world.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

I was first introduced to Nick when he was heating up the crowd at Bally’s Liaison Nightclub, a unique experiment in Strip-side gay nightlife by legendary club purveyor Victor Drai. Handsome, chiseled and flashing a boyish smile that kept his simmering sex appeal in balance, the stud from Buffalo NY instantly won me over.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

Ayler’s talents have been a favorite at LGBTQ spots like Piranha and the former Share. As you might imagine, having a shirtless, muscular hunk at the turntables tends to draw that type of crowd. But as you can see below, it takes all kinds of revelers to fill Nick’s dance floor.

Hot Guys of Vegas Eye of the Beholder

In a culture where being a multi-hyphenate is a requirement, Ayler has been racking up stacks of additions to his resume. Actor, model, humanitarian, philosopher, music producer, percussionist and fitness guru are all ingredients in the Nick Ayler cocktail. But even a muscle hunk needs a little junk food sometimes.

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Noteworthy traits – smoldering gaze, electric charisma

 

Preston Thompson – model/dancer/fitness competitor

 

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                                                      Preston Thompson

Where you’ve seen him – romance novel covers, private gigs, photo ops on the Strip

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If you’re a regular reader, you know that I cover the Mr. Olympia Fitness Expo every year. It’s hard to stand out in that type of crowd, but Preston Thompson makes it look easy. He’s earned the right to lift up his shirt in front of that “Muscle and Fitness” banner.

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Preston came to Sin City two years ago by way of Atlanta. He grew up in a log house on a farm in Knoxville, TN then moved through five different states before heading for the bright lights of the Strip.

When he arrived, the twenty-six-year-old hunk was determined to take Las Vegas by storm: “Every move I make is calculated” he says. “This isn’t a guessing game”.

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Now that he’s here, Preston juggles many different hats…and shirts, costumes and gear. You’ll find him on the cover of romance novels by Vegas-based Wander Aguiar Photography. And he shakes up parties and private events by performing as “Bradley” for Wild Entertainment, the Steve Kim entertainment agency I told you all about right here.

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Like Thompson, gal pal Natasha Kirby is a fitness enthusiast. She recently competed in the Salt Lake City Showdown, and the couple hopes to do fitness competitions together soon.

In their spare time, Natasha and Preston like to visit shelters just to spend quality time with the animals. Preston is especially fond of felines. Although having pets isn’t currently permitted where he lives, adopting cats is high on the list of Preston’s goals.

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Despite his brawny frame and steely gaze, Preston is a philosopher at heart:

When you figure out in life that everything’s made to be broken….then you’ll truly understand how fragile life is. Just make me a Believer and I’ll follow… no matter the path.

All that introspection might be a little heavy at times, so he likes to lighten things up with a little outward inspection. By that I mean lots of selfies through the years…to chart his progress, of course:

On some evenings, you might spot Preston and his beefy friends (they call themselves G.I. Hoes) posing for photographs in front of Planet Hollywood or at the Linq Promenade. While other characters might hide behind padded suits or just stand there for a tip, Preston struts his stuff…and sometimes defies the laws of gravity.

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Noteworthy traits – deep blue eyes, action-movie physique

 

Noel Dahl – photographer/humanitarian

 

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                                                                  Noel Dahl

Where you’ve seen him – charity events, cover of Las Vegas Night Beat

Most photographers like to let their pictures do the talking while they remain in the background. For Noel Dahl, those photos recently put him in the center of a controversy that played out on a Las Vegas television station.

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You might remember Dahl from an expose I penned earlier this year. In it, I described how the highly-respected photographer was having his tasteful work slammed by ABC affiliate KTNV-TV as “lewdness”.

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As always, this man with a generous and forgiving soul moved forward and continued to support the community as he has done for years. From raising fund for AIDS programs to providing food for the needy, Dahl approaches life with dignity and respect for all.

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                         Noel Dahl and friends serving food to the homeless…

Last year Noel created a pin-up calendar featuring all-male subjects and donated 100 percent of the proceeds to charity:

Throughout my years as a photographer, I have had the privilege of shooting countless men for my own portfolio, but I have always striven to find a way of utilizing my photography skills to give back to the Las Vegas community. I hope to bring together local talent, the photographer community, and with the help of a few graciously supportive company sponsorships, I hope to rally support for the HIV/AIDS community and unite the LGBT community in Las Vegas.

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Noel’s work for traditional family-style landmarks like weddings, engagements and portraits are stunning pieces of art. And his sexy fitness/physique photography draws performers from numerous Las Vegas productions like Aussie Heat, Zumanity, WOW – World of Wonder and Men of Sapphire.

“I love my job but what I love more is working with beautiful souls” said Noel. Those souls include gorgeous animals like his cat Jelly, who recently crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.

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“It’s hard to be alone in my house/studio and not have him. He was always next to me, following me around. I have over thirty-one thousand pics, and almost half of them are of Jelly”.

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Hubby Justin Dahl, who’s an events services manager for MGM Resorts, shares Noel’s grief over their lost fellow. But they have several other cats in the family to keep the couple’s hearts warm. As Justin told me “What can I say? I’m a sucker for a cute face”.

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That would explain why he and Noel make for such a photogenic couple. Good thing they’re both as great in front of the camera as Noel is behind it.

Noteworthy traits – love for all creatures, unbeatable personal style

 

Ryan Worley – dancer/model/NPC competitor

 

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                                                            Ryan Worley

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales, charity events, NeuroLYFT fitness training

Sometimes it’s rough to be the new guy on a team. Not so for Ryan Worley. This twenty-seven year old hunk joined Chippendales last summer and hit the ground running. Ryan immediately became an audience favorite, attracting a legion of fans with his winning smile, shredded physique and fun-loving spirit.

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Ryan’s colleagues at Chippendales tell me that they’re smitten by his infectious spirit and outrageous sense of humor. They say he’s unpredictable, spontaneous and wonderfully good-natured. I hear he’s a pretty good guitar player, too.

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Those fun-loving qualities undoubtedly help Worley and his cast-mates get through arduous rehearsals, numerous public appearances and a wide variety of charity events.

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It was only last July that the Danville, California native auditioned for Chippendales. Excitedly posting the news on his Facebook page that he was joining the world-famous revue, Ryan packed up and headed for Sin City. He quickly adjusted to a new life of celebrity encounters, calendar shoots and a real highlight: sharing the stage with reknowned dancer/choreographer/philanthropist Tony Dovolani.

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While all of this sudden fame might to go the heads of lesser men, Ryan has remained humble and somewhat awestruck by the experience. He’s earned his place in the spotlight by remaining true to his goals and pushing towards success:

Never stop working toward your dreams regardless of what people think!! People will always try to push their insecurities and fears on you!

Having been raised in the Mormon religion, it must have raised a few eyebrows when Ryan announced he was about to become a sexy performer in Sin City. “It was a crazy transition”, he laughed. Ryan promises to tell me about that journey and lots more for an upcoming profile article. Stay tuned.

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This summer, the fitness enthusiast and NPC competitor will be working even harder to prepare for his next bodybuilding show. Worley will be squaring off against other hard-bodied athletes in the “classic physique” category for the NPC Las Vegas Classic at UNLV‘s campus on November third.

I competed in bodybuilding in the NPC (National Physique Committee) back in 2014. Fitness is a huge passion of mine. It’s been the only constant in my life.

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If that wasn’t already enough to fill Ryan’s slate, he’s teamed up with fellow Chippendale star Matthew Marshall to launch a new fitness brand called NeuroLYFT. The site and service promise an innovative approach to wellness:

Matt and I teach all the hacks to fitness. In addition, we focus on getting your mindset right for you to continue a healthy lifestyle. Meditation, nutrition and training are what we focus on…and in that order.

Most personal trainers only take you through workouts and then you are left on your own with the most important aspects of fitness. That’s why people fail.

At NeuroLYFT, we make the protocol to wellness easier. From life to the kitchen to the gym. We take your goals and reformat your life to show you the easiest, most effective way to transcend you past your fitness goals.

Staying in shape is not only a passion of mine but my career as well. It’s what I love to do. I want to share my passion with others and help them achieve their ideal physique…whatever that may be.

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One look at the above photo proves that Ryan Worley knows how to inspire others. Where do we sign up?

Noteworthy traits – minimal body-fat level, maximum heartthrob appeal

 

Patrick Rivera – photographer/model/musician

 

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                                                          Patrick Rivera

Where you’ve seen him – wherever gorgeous people are to be found

Apparently it’s not that unusual for professional photographers to look fantastic in front the lens, too. Such is the case for Patrick Rivera, a highly-respected camera-jockey whose services are sought after by many of the movers and shakers of Sin City.

Patrick’s gorgeous wife Mariah Nieslanik Rivera, dance captain and performer in FANTASY at Luxor, was behind the camera for this portrait shot above. But as she joked later, “He did the settings and everything… I just clicked the button”.

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Having covered lots of red carpet events, I know that lugging camera equipment around can be quite a workout. In Patrick’s case, those efforts have paid off in spades. This mountain of imposing muscle looks fierce, especially when he’s relieved of his shirt. Whatever is in that camera case is working.

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Patrick’s work is everywhere in Sin City….on billboards, in nightclubs, on magazine covers and in performer portfolios. His commercial clients cover the gamut from Chippendales to skin care lines and fitness services.

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While Patrick enjoys the lighthearted aspects of his career, he’s quick to point out the seriousness of a picture’s lasting impression. He believes that one photograph has the ability to shape the way you feel and bring you into the moment with just one look.

To fully capture the spirit of an artistic subject, it is essential that the photographer embodies the lived experiences of many…having to dwell in darkness to dance in the light.

Art captures the intersection and interpretation of life’s saints and serpents, life’s triumphs and  tragedies…reflecting the close calls, the soulful escapes, the beauty and raw emotion of our kindred spirit.

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Patrick and Mariah share an entertaining and heartwarming view of Las Vegas. They’ve even hosted their own show on WCOBM.TV called “All About It! with Pat & Mariah“.

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The fun-loving couple are currently enjoying some well-deserved sunshine on the sands of Hawaii. While they’re relaxing, Patrick’s latest project has been stirring up some excitement in the media. It’s a session with gifted singer/actress Ruby Lewis, who’s about to light up the Strip in her forthcoming production MARILYN – The New Musical. Enjoy!

 

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                                     Patrick with MARILYN star Ruby Lewis

Noteworthy traits – muscles and tattoos, ability to make stars shine brighter

 

Photos: Nick Ayler/Preston Thompson/Noel Dahl/Justin Dahl/Patrick Rivera/Ryan Worley via Facebook, Gelena Vainblat, Wander Aguir Photography, Noel Dahl Photo Studio, Patrick Rivera Studio. Cover photo by Jean N. Young