By Louiie Victa
I met chefs Jeff Weiss and Paras Shah during a photo shoot for Eater. I don’t usually get to meet the chefs during these insider shoots, as I work more closely with their publicists. When I arrived at Valencian Gold, Jeff and Paras greeted me at the door with huge smiles and amazing energy. It was hard not to take note of that. As I conducted my shoot, more pleasantries were exchanged as well as commonalities. We all loved Spanish food and have worked with Spanish Chefs Jose Andres and Ferran Adria. I mean, those two names alone is a huge predictor in the quality behind their concept. Anyways, we bonded immediately and became friends at that shoot – a common occurrence amongst us cooks/chefs that belong to the same “family”.
I am not here to sing praises of their amazing paella. Many other people will do that because their food is nothing short of spectacular in terms of flavor and authenticity. Rather, I’m here to deconstruct their concept into digestible bits. It’s more than just paella and definitely more than just a rice dish with toppings and stuff. What chefs Jeff and Paras have in their beautiful restaurant tucked away in the southwest part of Las Vegas is the authentic way of consuming paella. But before we delve into that, let’s look at some quick facts in the history of this wonderful dish.
Fact 1: Paella was developed in Valencia, Spain.
Fact 2: It was originally consumed by farmers and laborers who cooked this dish over an open fire for a lunchtime meal.
Fact 3: Paella is actually named after the pan. It’s derived from the Latin word patella, which means pan. It’s also derived from the Arabic word, Baqiyah which means leftovers.
Fact 4: This dish is meant to be shared and is the focal point of many parties and gatherings in Spain.
And we arrive at Fact 5: PAELLA is the a very sociable meal, if not the most sociable.
Valencian Gold is an expression of all these facts. At its helm are two chefs who journeyed together in Spain, who fell in love with the food, flavors and culture, and who decided to bring this concept to life for all of us to enjoy. Also, they made their price points so accessible to the budget conscious food crowd, that it makes it hard not to enjoy their concept. It’s for the people, and this honors the humble traditions of this dish.
There is more about this restaurant to enjoy. As a chef, I am very keen on little details that add up to one’s dining experiences. I will mention a few details here that really stand out to me and make my heart happy.
The artwork was created by a Valencian street artist. You can check out his work on instagram @xolaka. The piece is called Generaciones, and it depicts an old woman and her granddaughter sharing paella. Symbolically, it depicts the grandmother imparting the tradition of paella to her granddaughter, much like how older generations pass their traditions to the younger generations through sharing, gathering and passing on knowledge and culture.
Their cutlery is made of wood, their straws are made of paper!!! Hooray! This is the first fast casual restaurant that I’ve been to that totally projects sustainability and the desire to lessen environmental impact due to plastic waste. I am giving chefs Jeff and Paras a huge gold star for taking the initiative to implement these environmentally friendly details, despite the increased cost. And this is something HUGE that we in the food community should strive for when we can. After all is said and done, if we don’t make these necessary changes now, we soon won’t have a world to live in, let alone, enjoy great food. Sad, but true.
They have excellent reading material in their restrooms. Just saying from a chef’s perspective. It would be easy to spend quite a bit of time in there. Plus, they have some amazing selfie walls!
There’s even golden bubblegum by the bubblegum lady wall! What’s not to love about this place, really?!?
Their flan tastes like Fruity Pebbles. I have personally inhaled this fantastic flan, and the experience is the same everytime. If I continue eating their flan, I will eventually look like I work for Eater (as evidenced by my growing midsection).
Piecing all of these tiny but relevant details together, I can’t help but think that Chefs Jeff and Paras are on the right track with their concept. The restaurant and its offerings are there for our community to enjoy. It’s a great example of how we share our inspirations, traditions, food, and knowledge for all generations to come. We welcome them into our vibrant and growing food community in Las Vegas, and I know they would be very happy to get our support.
So please check out our newest and funniest episode to date: Episode 9: Paella for the People – the Story of Valencian Gold, available on iTunes, Spotify, Radio Public. and Stitcher.