Casino Cuisine Kicks Cajun Up a Notch

Can southern travelers find sophisticated, world class cuisine in a casino resort without going to Las Vegas or the Caribbean? The answer is close to home thanks to such professionals as Jeffrey DiVito, Food & Beverage Director of at L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The instinctive, warm hospitality of the South is a given in Louisiana.  Add in the state’s French heritage in the kitchen. Complete the winning formula with a professional manager whose background includes the Waldorf Astoria and Peninsula hotels in  New York, Sands Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, and years of consulting in Las Vegas.

Lake Charles is only the fifth largest city in the Pelican State but it’s a premier premier tourist attraction thanks in part to the palatial 26-story L’Auberge. A short a hop from Beaumont, Texas, a state where casino gambling is not allowed, the city attracts a large share of heavy rollers as well as casual gamers and family vacationers.

In addition to luxury accommodations, spa and a 24-hour casino it has four full-service restaurants ranging from a boffo buffet to the elegant Embers with its Rosenthal tableware.  Satellite dining venues include Desserts with its incredible selection of gelatos and a coffee shop serving light fare and lighter-than-air pastries. Boutiques sell designer clothing, footwear and accessories. Outdoors,  the city-size pool complex includes a lazy river and a marina where sail-in guests can dock while dining.

When he came to the area, DiVito found a hometown he could love plus enormous potential for the resort. “Most of our staff had grown up in this area but were short on world experience,” he observes. “We sent five of our top chefs to CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in upstate New York and they came back with an enhanced, broader, international vision.” DiVito also brought in top chefs from the casino world.

Consistency, one of his favorite words, entered the dining picture. The family-friendly Le Café needed its own identity as a place for all-American comfort foods. The menu now features gumbo, pot roast, meatloaf, crab melts and other favorites. Like everything else that comes from the resort’s kitchens, they are homemade from scratch–and that includes sauces, soups, seasoning blends and stocks.

Provisions are sourced locally including the 2,000 pounds of Gulf shrimp that are served each week  in the buffet restaurant alone. Is the seafood safe?  “The oil spill was tragic,” DiVito remembers, “But it didn’t affect southwest Louisiana.” In any case, his seafood is tested for safety at the fisheries, distributor and again at kitchen levels.

On the design side, he changed the steak house restaurant from a single environment to  two. Casual diners can choose the lounge area with piano; those who prefer a longer dinner are seated in regal dining areas set with starchy white linens. Jack Daniels, the resort’s southern-theme restaurant and show lounge features barbecue and other Dixie classics. The resort also has an Asian restaurant.

As manager, DiVito sees to the smallest detail, “It’s not just getting food out of the kitchen,” he reveals. “Ours is an ongoing evolution with constant attention to flavor profile, temperatures, presentation, environment and great chefs who have an eye for detail.”

Having worked in many larger and more famous places he can honestly say,  “L’Auberge could stand on its own anywhere in the world.”

  1. A special thanks to Jeff DiVito,Director of Food & Beverage – L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles