Wilfried ‘Wil’ Bergerhausen looks youthful, and he is. Still under thirty years old, he is the product of a perfect storm of both nature and nurture. Not only does cooking run in the family, as his grandfather owned a farm and grew all of his own produce, his father worked as a Restaurant Manager for many years, and, when will was still very young, introduced Wil to some of the most famous restaurants in France.
A native of France, he earned his certificate of cooking (B.E.P.) at the prestigious Lycée Paul Augier in Nice, France. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts Management. He also was chosen to assist Chef Eric Finon at the National Competition of Artistic Cooking in France, a preliminary qualifier for the Bocuse d’Or’.
He began working as commis de cuisine, or, apprentice chef, at many notable Paris restaurants, notably at Le Café Lenotre. He then worked as sous Chef de Partie at L’Oasis, one of the most prestigious, two star Michelin restaurants in France.
After two years of working in the kitchen, Bergerhausen decided to take a vacation to the U.S. He ended up in Las Vegas, went to the Joel Robuchon restaurant, took a tour of the facilities as was asked immediately to come and work at the restaurant. He said YES!
Bergerhausen worked as Sous Chef and Kitchen Manager for Joël Robuchon Restaurant from 2008 to 2012 managing the team in producing, organizing, demonstrating and storing of all food items. In 2013, Bergerhausen made the move from Joël Robuchon to serve as executive Sous-chef and Chef De Cuisine of MICHAEL MINA restaurant at Bellagio. In this role he was responsible for creating, researching and developing new menu concepts as well as all meal preparation and overseeing culinary operations at the restaurant.
Now, at 28 years old, Bergerhausen is serving as the Executive Chef of Le Cirque at Bellagio. In his first position as Executive Chef, he admits that he is living his dream each day.
Pursuitist was happy to interview the talented young chef in a recent conversation this summer.
Pursuitist: You are a young chef — I would like to know when you realized your taste and interests could make you an executive chef. I have asked this before of other chefs and they said, in general, they knew in childhood their tastes were different from other kids. I wonder if that is the case with you. Also, who were your first culinary teachers? And, what did you learn from them?
Chef Wil: I was raised by the cooking of my mother and grandmother. At a very young age my parents took me to some of the best French fine dining restaurants. For me, it was a true pleasure experiencing unknown flavors, and I always wondered how dishes were created. I told my parents, “One day I would like to be a chef and would like to give the same pleasure to people.”
Pursuitist: In your family of origin, who were good cooks in the family? Your mother? father? grandparents? Did you learn to cook out of great interest or necessity? I have had chefs tell me they learned to cook because they had to, no one else in the family could boil water! I wonder what it was like with you and your family.
Chef Wil: My mother and grandmother were always cooking, and I always wanted to watch and help them. It was very interesting to me, as they had two very different styles of cooking. My grandmother’s cooking was very precise; everything was measured so the taste was always consistent. My mother was spontaneous. She would find whatever was around and turn it into something great. However, I could not ask her to do the same dish again as it would be something totally different every time.
Cooking was such an important part of our lives, so for me it was a no brainer to go in that direction. However, my family wasn’t very supportive of my decision. They told me that being a chef was a hard job. I wouldn’t be able to see my family for the holidays or weekends, that the daily hours were insane and that only few people succeeded. I did not listen to their warning because there was nothing else I wanted to do.
Pursuitist: What are some of your favorite and most original dishes that you prepare at Le Cirque? Do you have seasonal menus at Le Cirque? Could you provide some menu examples of seasonality?
Chef Wil: The menus at Le Cirque are always updated with the seasons. Although we can source all produce year-round in Vegas, I prefer to use products when they are at their prime. I also understand that it’s a very ambitious and demanding process to come up with new ideas every 3 months for 75 percent of the menu. However, the benefit of seasonal dishes outweighs the difficult process. Many of our guests come several times a year, so they are always looking for the seasonal changes. Our cooks enjoy the process as well as they learn many new techniques and are introduced to various new products. For me, that is what makes it all interesting; there is nothing more rewarding than to see the smiles of our guests, and their raving reviews after they dine with us.
Pursuitist: How much food authenticity/ farm-to-table from local sourcing can or do you do in Las Vegas? Can you acquire almost anything you want?
Chef Wil: In this day and age, I am extremely fortunate to have anything I may possibly want for the restaurant. We fly in products from all around the world on a daily basis, and we are in close proximity to California where some of the best produce comes from. We even have a small rooftop chef’s garden at Bellagio where we grow our own herbs.
Pursuitist: What are some of your favorite foods you eat at home, but don’t prepare at Le Cirque?
Chef Wil: One of my favorite dishes to prepare at home is slowly braised lamb cooked for six hours in a Moroccan tagine. My home comfort food would be Provencal Vegetable Gratin cooked with fresh herbs and secondly, Roasted Guinea hen with savoy cabbage puree and baby potatoes.
Pursuitist: I am also curious about taste evolution — have you seen an evolution in the taste in the past year years? More vegan? Vegetarian? More unusual meats, vegetable, food preps? Just curious about this. Does Le Cirque include vegan and vegetarian dishes? If so, please explain what they are…
Chef Wil: I am glad you asked this question, as I could not agree more. These days more and more people try to eat healthy and are more considerate towards the environment. Several years ago a vegan menu was something that almost no restaurant would even consider having. I am very happy to be a part of these changes. At Le Cirque, we offer both vegan and vegetarian menus which consist of five savory courses that also change with the seasons.
Pursuitist: What are some of your favorite colors, spices, and textures that you enjoy working with?
Chef Wil: I love colors and different textures because you eat with your eyes first. Our china and décor is also very colorful so they match perfectly with the type of food we present. I love primarily the French classics but often find myself working with exotic spices and products from Asia and other places.
Pursuitist:What is your favorite, and most necessary kitchen tool?
Chef Wil: I am very proud of my collection of Japanese hand-made knives that I have accumulated over the years.