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Chukchansi Steakhouse Chef Bets Big on Diner Satisfaction

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Chef Lalo Valenzuela started working in restaurants at the age of 12 in Yountville, the heart of Napa Valley wine country.

David Taub

Appetite for Fresno

I pretty much worked at every restaurant except for the French Laundry,” he recalled.

He has plied his trade at the Vintage Steakhouse at Chukchansi Gold Casino and Resort in Coarsegold for the last 10 months. Chef Lalo worked at Cache Creek Casino prior to arriving in Coarsegold, but his job became a victim of the pandemic.

His specialty is what the customers want.

“What really satisfies me is just knowing that people come in to enjoy their food and I was able to make a small part of their satisfaction,” Chef Lalo said.

And, if customers want steak, they’ve come to the right place.

The porterhouse ($78) is a signature entrée at the Vintage Steakhouse. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

It’s About the Steaks

“What really satisfies me is just knowing that people come in to enjoy their food and I was able to make a small part of their satisfaction.”Chef Lalo Valenzuela

As the Vintage Steakhouse name implies, steaks are the specialty.

“We (cook) on an open broiler, we put a nice sear on the outside and then we obviously got to get the temperature to the customer’s preference. Of course, seasoning and a little bit of good old maître d’ butter really puts the top on the steak,” says Frank Rigley, the restaurant’s food and beverage manager.

Rigley says they get meats from sellers across the state. They butcher the meat in-house.

The prime porterhouse ($78) is a Vintage “signature favorite.”

“What makes the porterhouse special is it’s a big cut of meat, 32 ounces. It takes a while to make,” Chef Lalo said.  “It’s not something that a lot of people really order, but when they see it on the menu, I think it’s a ‘wow’ factor as well.”

Chef Lalo says they cook the steak just using salt and pepper, and baste it with clarified butter at the end.

“There’s not a lot of secrets into doing what we do here. We keep it very simple … something that guests really come back for,” he said.

Vintage Steakhouse has two sommeliers. Rigley says it is all about customer preference of what wine to pair with steaks and other dishes.

“(My philosophy is) a little bit old school. I like to sell wine that the customer’s going to enjoy. And so if we’ve got a nice seafood platter and I need to find a bottle of wine for that customer, I like to understand the wine they like. If they like a nice, buttery chardonnay, I will recommend they find a Far Niente,” Rigley said.

But, he wouldn’t recommend a chardonnay with a steak.

“But if it makes them happy and if they enjoy that steak with that white wine, we would we would definitely serve it to them,” Rigley said.

The Surf & Turf ($78), a 7-oz. filet mignon with an 8-oz. Atlantic lobster tail. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Don’t Forget Dessert

Vintage Steakhouse offers a crème brûlée ($12). Traditionally, the French dessert is a rich custard made with vanilla bean.

“We did a little different. We put it on an Oreo cookie as well,” Chef Lalo said. “It’s just really caramelized and burnt sugar. I know there’s a fine line, but I think we perfected it.”

The crème brûlée ($12) at Vintage Steakhouse. (GV Wire/Jahz Tello)

Backyard BBQ Steak Tips

What is the difference between a high-end restaurant steak and something cooked on the backyard grill?

Chef Lalo offered some tips.

“It is not really cooking directly on the heat itself, like on your coals, the surrounding areas. It makes a difference to get in a good sear on your product as well. And then really understanding the heat of it, to either move the coals around or, just put in or take off at the right time,” the chef said.

If You Go …

Vintage will celebrate its 20th year in 2023. It is used to winning local awards as a favorite steakhouse.

Vintage Steakhouse is open from 5-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Although located within the gaming floor of Chukchansi Gold, children are allowed to dine — as long as they are accompanied by an adult.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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