Nat Hart (1916-1995) was one of Las Vegas, Nevada’s original celebrity chefs, well-known for his restaurants at Caesars Palace and the Desert Inn, and for his popular gourmet cooking school. During the 1960s Hart was maître d' of Bacchanal, the main fine dining restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He was promoted to Corporate Vice President of Food and Beverage in the 1970s and established new restaurants at Caesars World locations across the United States. In the 1980s he opened the Nat Hart Gourmet Cooking School in Las Vegas. After retiring from Caesars World in 1987, Hart changed his mind and returned to the restaurant world for three years as the head of the food and beverage department at the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Nat Hart was born on February 25, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois. He trained as a chef at the Le Pointe School of Cuisine in Paris, France and the Lucerne Food Service School in Switzerland. He also studied under top chefs at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and the original Alfredo in Rome, Italy. Before he moved to Las Vegas in 1949, Hart co-owned a restaurant in Florida with his wife Sylvia.
In Las Vegas Hart was first employed at The Fabulous Flamingo Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. In the 1960s he was hired as the chief maître d' at Caesars Palace and began his long-lasting career with Caesars World Incorporated. Hart managed Bacchanal, a Roman fine dining experience that featured six courses and was the main restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s. While employed at Caesars Palace, Hart often worked on multiple other projects. For instance, in 1964 he designed the food arrangement display in the Japanese Pavilion of the World’s Fair in New York City. In addition to his skills as a chef and manager, Hart worked as a restaurateur. In the 1970s Hart was promoted to the position of Corporate Vice President of Food and Beverage for Caesars World, a position he held until his retirement from the company in the 1987. As part of his job, Hart designed, planned, and opened new restaurants at Caesars World locations across the United States, including Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Stateline, Nevada.
Nat Hart divided his time among many projects. He worked as a private food and beverage industry consultant in Las Vegas and elsewhere in the United States. He also served as the president of the Ichi Ban Japanese Steak House in Winnipeg, Canada. He was an active member and leader of multiple food industry-related and service groups such as the American Federation of Chefs and the B'nai B'rith Lodge of Las Vegas, a Jewish service organization he helped charter. In the 1980s Nat and his wife Sylvia opened the Nat Hart Gourmet Cooking School in Las Vegas. Hart functioned as the director of the school and personally instructed over 2,000 students. In addition, he lectured and taught courses on restaurant management and operations at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Hart's passion for work in restaurants led to a very short retirement from the business in 1987. In a newspaper interview Hart commented, "I couldn't wait to retire, but found out only then that it was something I couldn't do." Hart indeed could not retire, and he joined the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino as the head of the food and beverage department. In the three years at the Desert Inn he opened two gourmet restaurants, Howan and La Vie en Rose. Nat Hart died in Las Vegas on March 17, 1995 but his multifaceted career as a restaurateur paved the way for the future success of celebrity chefs on the Las Vegas Strip.
Penn, Julie. 1987. "Renowned Chef Returns from 'Retirement.'" Las Vegas Review-Journal, June 24.