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How Elizabeth Blau Reinvented a Dallas Landmark

Meet the driving force behind Reunion Tower’s Crown Block, one of the most hotly anticipated restaurants the region has ever seen.
| |Portrait by Kathy Tran / Restaurant photography by Brittany Conerly and Crown Block/ Bill Milne
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How Elizabeth Blau Reinvented a Dallas Landmark

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When Crown Block opened in Reunion Tower this past April, it had more than 10,000 reservations on the books. The excitement over the new restaurant in the Dallas landmark was unprecedented. Behind the scenes was James Beard Award nominee Elizabeth Blau. The founder and CEO of Blau + Associates is an industry rock star who’s often credited with helping Las Vegas become a world-class culinary destination. Ray Hunt, the owner of Reunion Tower, hired her to work her magic in Dallas.

Blau never intended to work in the business. She grew up in Connecticut, the daughter of a radiologist father and a schoolteacher mother. She got her first restaurant job at age 16 and was hooked. But although her parents are ardent foodies, “in their minds, I think they felt restaurants were more like a hobby,” Blau says. So, she earned a degree in government and international relations from Georgetown University with the idea of getting into law or politics.

After working for the famed Atlas Floral Decorators in New York’s Plaza Hotel, she moved back to Connecticut for the summer, working as an intern for the state’s prosecuting attorney and prepping for the law boards. She also got a job at an old-fashioned candy store where she learned to make chocolates and fudges and butter crunches. Realizing she couldn’t deny her passion for food, she switched from the LSATs to the GMATs and was accepted to Cornell University’s acclaimed hotel program.

Through the Cornell network and her travels, Blau came to know the Maccioni family, led by Sirio Maccioni, whom she calls “probably the greatest restaurateur of all time.” She wrote a strategic marketing plan for a restaurant he was planning to open as her senior thesis and parlayed it into a job.

The real fun came after she connected Maccioni to family friend and casino mogul Steve Wynn. He was getting the Bellagio going in Las Vegas and brought in Maccioni’s wildly popular Le Cirque and, later, Osteria del Circo. Blau moved to Vegas to work on the project in 1997, thinking it would be a six-month stint. Instead, Wynn stole her away and put her in charge of restaurant development for Mirage Resorts. It was a time when Las Vegas was ripe for change, Blau says.

“We started with [celebrity chefs] Todd English, Michael Mina, and Julian Serrano with Picasso,” she says. “We did a partnership with Nancy Silverton of La Brea Breads to create our in-house bakery. I got to do crazy things like fly to Paris and do a deal with Armand Petrossian to create the caviar bar. I wasn’t even 30 at the time. It was like anything I could dream up; if it made business sense, we did it.”

With its expansive portfolio of top restaurants led by world-famous chefs, the Bellagio sparked a culinary revolution in Las Vegas, and Blau was at the forefront of it all. Her success led her to launch her own restaurant consultancy, Blau + Associates, in 2002. She serves as CEO and leads the firm with her co-founder husband, Chef Kim Canteenwalla, principal and managing director.

In 2012, the couple began operating restaurants of their own. Their portfolio includes Honey Salt and Buddy V’s Ristorante (in partnership with Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss) in Las Vegas, a second Honey Salt and four other venues in Vancouver, and now, Crown Block.

Blau and Canteenwalla have made a second home in Dallas, and their son now attends SMU. “I don’t think people realize the incredible substance behind this city,” she says. “We created Crown Block for Dallas. We may have come from Las Vegas, but Crown Block is uniquely and essentially for Dallas.”  

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Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…
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