Juan Morales, Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage
Juan Morales knows how to juggle multiple restaurants in a thriving desert casino. For the past six years, he has served as Executive Chef of Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas. He credits that experience—along with his time working at the famed Patina Restaurant Group in Los Angeles—for preparing him for that final position: overseeing six food and beverage concepts at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage – a massive operation that caters to a diverse group of locals and visitors around the clock.
In his new position, Morales enjoys a lot of autonomy to be inventive and take risks on new things. “I have more creative freedom here,” he says. “I can submit ideas to my F&B manager and get feedback. Obviously, there are things that work and things that don’t and need to be refined, but I never thought to myself, “Oh, no, I can’t try that. This is one of the big advantages.
Morales cites the more global and unexpected offerings on the 360 Sports sports bar menu as examples of the original thinking – dishes like tempura cauliflower bites and Asian-inspired firecracker shrimp lettuce wraps with house-made pickles and Vietnamese herbs. “While we have traditional sports bar items like wings, others are very cooking-focused with specific flavor profiles and textures,” he says. “To see this take off and be a part of it continuing to grow is an amazing thing.”
Since debuting in December 2021, Morales has given much of his attention to the Steakhouse, working with his team to update and expand the menu, incorporating more local produce, offering more seasonal specialties and options for vegan customers.
“One of the things that brought me back to California is the ability to get great produce year-round,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll start to see fresher, lighter dishes, fuller menus that customers identify with.”
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