Before ending up on the Vegas Strip, Chef Bill Chan was cooking in Hong Kong when the territory was still under British sovereignty in 1979. Now, 33 years later, Bill is now the man in command of the kitchen at The Grand Wok restaurant inside the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino serving up traditional Cantonese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine. Not to be misconstrued as fusion, but an expansive menu selection ranging from Dim Sum-style dishes, sashimi, Pad Thai, to Hainanese chicken rice. We caught up with Executive Chef Bill Chan after a bustling lunch service and spoke to him about working at the MGM Grand, his past and being the Vice President of the American Chinese Chef Association.
Bill studied cooking in Hong Kong when he was young; “I immediately started working and learning in this field.” As a first generation immigrant he knew he had to acquire a unique skill to earn a living in the States.
He came to the U.S. in 1984 at the age of 21 and quickly found a cooking job at a Chinese restaurant in San Carlos, CA. After a few years he moved on to the Royal Palace, also a Chinese restaurant in Mountain View, CA as an Executive Chef.
In 1995, he was given an opportunity to advance his career in a corporate setting, where he ended up as sous chef at Moongate, a Szechuan and Cantonese restaurant at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, a MGM Grand property, in the City of Sin.
During the last 16 years, he’s worked three different MGM Grand properties. In 2003, he found himself at home at The Grand Wok. “I enjoy the working environment in big hotels because they give you a lot of opportunities,” says Bill. Not just opportunities, but other freedoms as well. “They also give you a lot of creative freedoms that allow you to follow your own ideas,” Bill added.
Thriving for authenticity
The Grand Wok menu consists of high-end dishes like Thai-style lobster, pan-fried bass, black pepper beef, Cantonese roasted duck ranging from 17 to 40 dollars. Bill thrives for authenticity, “We focus on more of an authentic take on our dishes for guests who are used to the Chinese taste. We also make it visually pleasing, the expectation in a big hotel is high.”
When Chef Bill is not manning the kitchen he’s on duty as Vice President of the American Chinese Chef Association in Las Vegas, a Los Angeles-based organization that connects Chinese chefs with restaurants. “We organize and send chefs to major cooking competitions in Asia such as China and Hong Kong,” says Bill.
As for the future, Bill tells us, “he’s very happy at the MGM Grand” and eventually would love to have a chance to open up his own restaurant, either here in Vegas or China.