The Chefs Who Cook Las Vegas ~ William “Billy” DeMarco

La Cave Las Vegas Salmon Sashimi Tostada

La Cave Salmon Sashimi Tostada ~ photo credit: Chris Wessling

The Unsung Heroes Of The Kitchen

Oftentimes the unsung heroes of a restaurant are the leaders of the kitchen, who are toiling behind the scenes to provide a pleasurable dining experience for the eatery’s patrons.

In this series we shine a spotlight on talented, creative and unique individuals who have or are becoming the culinary superheroes of our city and what paths they have taken to establish themselves as rising and established gastronomic stars. We examine their unique attributes and what has helped to make them become the best of the best, and salute these culinary stars of which ranks include celebrity chefs, small business chef/owners and executive chefs.

William “Billy” DeMarco Executive Chef of Morton Group

Morton Group Executive Chef William “Billy” DeMarco currently oversees three restaurants in Las Vegas: La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway at Wynn, CRUSH American Grill at MGM Grand and ONE Steakhouse at Virgin Hotels. He grew up working in his family’s pizzeria and initially didn’t realize it would eventually become his career, but enjoyed the fast-paced work and sense of well being by bringing others enjoyment through good food. We sat down with Chef to learn more about his background, philosophy of cooking, restaurants and plans for the future.

• • • • •

Background and Culinary Training


Can you tell us about your background, where you grew up, etc.

I’m a Long Island, New York native. I was introduced to the restaurant industry at an early age through my family-owned business, a popular neighborhood pizzeria. I loved the fast-paced kitchen environment and the sense of warmth encouraged through spending time with family, eating good food and drinking wine.

What made you decide to become a chef and how old were you when you knew this was the profession for you?

I was 16 years old working in a pizzeria and never thought of it as a career. I knew that people would always need to eat and realized that I could make money by cooking, but I didn’t know the reality of the business at the time—the long hours, working on weekends and holidays. All I really knew about being a chef was from watching Emeril on TV.

What chef training did you have and what year did you graduate?

I graduated from the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach in 1998. I was drawn there because it was more affordable than attending school in New York.

Chef Billy’s Path to Las Vegas
and Partnership with Michael Morton

What restaurants have you worked at, and what brought you to Las Vegas?

I began my culinary career working for Sam DeMarco; no relation, even though we share the same last name. I became Executive Chef of Sam DeMarco’s three restaurants: First, Merge and District. Four years later, I accepted the opportunity to work as the executive sous chef at The River Café, a landmark Brooklyn restaurant. While spending two years there, I was inspired by Executive Chef Brad Steelman’s knack for applying inventive touches to straightforward American cuisine. In 2005, I relocated to Las Vegas, where I worked at the Manhattan-based restaurant, Aureole, inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. In 2006, I joined Wynn Las Vegas as executive chef of The Buffet, where I oversaw 16 cooking stations to offer guests a breadth of international selections at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

How did you wind up working with Michael Morton and what factors have made it into such a great long-lasting partnership?

I first met Michael Morton while I was working at Wynn. He was working on a new project at the time, which turned into La Cave Wine & Food Hideaway. He was looking for a Wynn chef who knew the ins and outs of the property. I was the first chef on property to meet Michael and we instantly hit it off. He didn’t need to meet with anyone else, I was instantly his guy.

It truly is a partnership. Michael is very generous with the business and gives me a lot of control and creative freedom. I’ve known him for 14 years now, and our long-lasting relationship is a result of him listening to my ideas and genuinely valuing my opinion, which means a lot.

Philosophy of Cooking and Recipe Formulation


What is your philosophy of cooking, what you are trying to accomplish through your creations?

My philosophy is to keep it simple. People go overboard with fancy techniques, using CO2 and all of these extra steps that don’t make the food taste better, it’s just for show. I don’t want to make it too complicated. When using exceptional ingredients and cooking with love, the food can stand on its own and speak for itself. All of our food across our restaurants is simple, straightforward and delicious.

How do you come up with your recipes?

I draw inspiration from dishes that I try when going out to eat. I’m interested in discovering new food, new techniques and I get inspired seeing what other people are doing. As I’m trying new dishes, the wheels start turning. I think about how I would do it differently and put my own twist on it.

Restaurants in the Morton Portfolio and a New Opening on the Horizon


Tell us about the restaurants you oversee. How is each one unique, different from the others?

I love all of the restaurants because they’re completely different from one another. At La Cave we specialize in small plates inspired by global flavors, which allows me to play around a bit more. Our focus is on the exploration of wine and flavorful cuisine by pairing dishes with our expertly curated wine list featuring boutique and hard-to-find varietals. On the weekends we also serve our beloved butler-style brunch, featuring a wide variety of incredible cuisine, allowing for sampling. Each dish is presented tableside, along with bottomless cocktails. The restaurant also offers picturesque views of Wynn’s pool and gardens.

At CRUSH we serve entreés of American classics from steaks and seafood to woodfired pizzas and pasta with a bit more of a casual feel. CRUSH is a great spot to enjoy a long dinner or grab drinks ahead of concerts, shows and nights out on the Las Vegas Strip.

ONE Steakhouse is high-end, featuring an impressive selection of steaks, reimagined surf and turf, pasta dishes and sushi.  A unique experience that we only offer at ONE is our signature “Tomahawk Feast.” It’s a dry-aged, 18-pound USDA prime tomahawk steak, carved tableside for 10 to 12 people and served with six sides, priced at $1,400 and requires a 24-hour advance notice to order. ONE provides a very chic and intimate atmosphere.

All of the restaurants are very unique and each has its own niche.

Any influences on your menu from your upbringing or past chef experiences?

I take a lot of what I’ve learned from the chefs that I previously worked under. That comes from admiring my mentors and their food, which results in trying to emulate their style. My upbringing has definitely influenced my menus, as well. Growing up in an Italian household, our meatballs and pasta were always amazing. We haven’t announced it, yet, but we have something in the works that will make it possible for me to dive into Italian cuisine.

Any plans to open new concepts?

We have an Italian restaurant that we’re currently working on – a neighborhood restaurant. We are all locals and the restaurant scene is blowing up. We’re excited that we’ll soon be serving our friends and neighbors.

Spare Time Enjoyment and Plans to Stay in Las Vegas


What do you like to do when you are not working?

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my two daughters, who are three and 11 years old. I love to take them to their activities and enjoy going on family vacations.

Are you in LV to stay? Ever think of going elsewhere?

I will stay in Las Vegas as long as the restaurants are here. I’ve always thought of going back to Florida someday. I enjoyed living there for four years while I was in college and culinary school. I like the beach and warm weather, plus it’s affordable and similar to Vegas, but without the chaos.

  • Executive Chef William “Billy” DeMarco photo by Sabin Orr
  • La Cave Salmon Sashimi Tostada photo by Chris Wessling
  • La Cave Charred Octopus photo by Chris Wessling
  • La Cave Beef Carpaccio photo by Chris Wessling
  • CRUSH Entrance photo by Brian Brown
  • ONE Steakhouse Surf and Turf photo by Peter Harasty
  • La Cave Garden Lounge photo by Jeff Green
  • Crush Bar photo by Brian Brown
  • ONE Steakhouse entrance photo by Michael Mundy

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