How Chef Kenny Chye is Changing Vegas’ Menu
Photo by: Murtaza Karimzada
Two base ingredients that make a celebrity chef are ingenuity and passion. Besides curating remarkable dishes, the culinary genius must envision a menu that will satisfy a multitude of palates. True to any gourmet masterpiece, this definition is simple yet masks the unmatched complexities proven by the fact that there are only a few members belonging to the elite class of well‐known chefs.
Meet my friend and popular vegan/vegetarian Chef, Kenny Chye. Chef Kenny lived in Southern California for 15 years, but is originally from Malaysia. While in California, he owned three restaurants. In 2001, he moved to Las Vegas and started a meat and seafood wholesale business. During this time, he supplied hotels and restaurants with fresh, high‐quality product. However, the job perk of eating a lot of meat resulted in Chye having high cholesterol. “I would sometimes eat 22-ounces of prime rib at a time. Now I don’t touch it,” explains Chye.
Resulting from the need to make changes to his lifestyle, Chye became vegetarian. “I wanted to open a veggie restaurant for my health, but also so I can help other people,” says Chye. “I know people are trying to be healthy, but want good taste and good texture, just no meat.” In Spring 2012, Chye opened Veggie House, a vegan/vegetarian Chinese restaurant boasting over 100 items on its menu.
Only two years ago, I discovered this eatery full of familiar Chinese‐American favorites. Oftentimes, I take my carnivore friends to eat the creatively crafted dishes. Every time they are impressed by the taste and texture of the remarkable meatless fare. “I don’t like salad. I duplicate the food I like,” explains Chye. “I like sea bass. [Therefore,] we have sea bass on the menu [at Veggie House].”
And when Chef Kenny decided he wanted a burger, he created Vege‐Way, Vegas’ first‐ever plant‐based fast food restaurant. Mirroring the success of Veggie House, combining taste and texture, he has created a burger joint out of veggies. In September 2016, he introduced to the world his two‐year dream to create the vegan version of In‐N‐Out Burger.
How does he do it? “Fresh is always the best, no shortcuts. I get a lot of word‐of‐mouth,” Chye speaks to his success. “I help the vegan community with events, like donating food to fundraisers for animal charities. We donate food to the homeless every month. I talk to people. I tell them what the good things to eat are, what type of work we should be doing for our health, the environment and animals.”
Once upon a time, Las Vegas was the land of all‐you‐can‐eat‐buffets and a single gourmet room in each hotel. Fast‐forward 30 years, Vege‐Way, in its first week, attracted massive crowds and sold more than 3,000 burgers. Chef Kenny’s continuing and growing success is certainly, a testament of the importance of vegan/vegetarian food to the landscape of Vegas and how he has changed the local dining scene. I anxiously wait to see what happens next.
Contact K. Alex Shaw at [email protected]. Find more of her stories at www.highriselife.com, and follow @kalexshaw on Instagram.