Lots of things have changed recently at Bellagio — new stores, new restaurants. Inevitable, yes, but among the changes I have found that something dear to me is gone, and Las Vegas has lost something exceptional. The beautiful pastry shop tucked behind the conservatory is still there, but Jean Philippe Patisserie (and its twin at Aria) is no more. Bellagio can never be the same.
I was there on opening day in 2005. As Georgia O'Keeffe said after her first trip to New Mexico, once I saw JPP, I was always going back. In those days, Las Vegas was headed to the high end, and Jean Philippe Maury was at Bellagio for one reason — he was the best. A five-star hotel must have a five-star pastry chef. With his two world championships, the equivalent of Olympic gold, Maury fit the bill. The Paris hotel had already lured Lenotre from across the sea, and before long the most gorgeous pastry emporium, Payard, would open at Caesar's Palace. For a glorious few years, a pastry lover could find Paris-level artistry in spades on the Strip.
What happened, I do not know. Lenotre left years ago, Payard closed last year, but Jean Philippe survived and thrived. There was no slipping in quality or downsizing of space. Prices crept up, but it was totally worth it; lines only seemed to get longer.
So I was unprepared to find that, without notice, Jean Philippe was gone. At least half-a-dozen times a year, I had looked forward to going to one of the planet's best patisseries after seeing the new show in the conservatory or at the art gallery. Where else could you have an experience like that?
I'll never have another Snicker or Raspberry Intense, Rose Macaron or Sweet Trio. I'll never again sit at the window by the pool with a cafe au lait and a cheese danish. No more chocolate sculptures of zombies and elves to marvel at, no more chocolate Santas and Easter bunnies to take home.
The cashier told me JPP’s contract was up. Wikipedia says that, after designing a 6,000-square-foot kitchen at Aria to bring all the pastry production under one roof, “MGM gave Maury the finger, by kicking him out of his own pastry shop.”
First the parking, then the pastry. Or maybe Monsieur Maury was just ready to move on. Can’t say.
A funny thing, though. The last time I dined at JPP was at Aria on January 12. That day, I did something I'd never done before. Unable to choose, I ordered both of my favorite desserts — the Snicker, JPP's reconstructed Snickers bar, and the Raspberry Intense. Didn't feel the least bit guilty about it, either. The guiding hand of the universe, perhaps?
There is good news, however. Maury has opened a dessert shop in San Diego's Little Italy, called iDessert. A new concept altogether, with Maury's same insane perfectionism. It looks wonderful.