Interview with Chef Cory Harwell


(In the old John E. Carson Hotel on the corner of Carson Ave & 6th Street)

124 S. 6th St., Suite 100; Las Vegas, NV 89101



Saturday 12–10 pm
Sunday 11–9 pm – Serving brunch 11–4 pm
Monday 12–9 pm
Tuesday 12–9 pm
Wednesday 12–9 pm
Thursday 12–9 pm
Friday 12–10 pm


Las Vegas continues to attract high-profile chefs and world-class restaurants, but not all of them are in the fancy mega-resorts that line the iconic Las Vegas Strip; some are located in Downtown Las Vegas (DTLV), the original townsite and gambling district before The Strip.

The award-winning Carson Kitchen is a gastronomic explosion of intense flavors – rich, robust, and heavenly. Located in the historic John E. Carson Hotel, this now-famous eatery burst onto the Downtown Las Vegas scene in 2014 and has become a favorite of locals and tourists alike.  Carson Kitchen was the creation of the late famed Chef Kerry Simon and world-renowned restaurateur and Chef Cory Harwell – and keeping it in the family – Kerry Simon’s brother Scott Simon is Carson Kitchen’s Executive Chef.  Kerry mentored Chef Scott, and the brothers worked side by side for many years.  

Three years later, due to its immense popularity, Harwell had no choice but to expand the venue to meet his guests’ demands for more space. In addition to the main dining room, there is a contemporary bar with an open kitchen concept and a beautiful rooftop patio and bar that overlooks the surrounding area of Downtown, complete with a lava rock fire pit and live music.

The ever-changing menu is genius, a collection of seasonal comfort foods elevated with crazy and creative food pairings, and innovative flavor combinations. Because the plates are sharable, it provides diners an opportunity to taste so many foods on the menu, which adds to the overall dining experience.  Some of the absolute must-haves are the Crispy Chicken Skins with smoked honey; Bacon Jam; Tempura Green Beans; “Devil’s” Eggs, Killer Shrimp, baked Mac & Cheese; Wild Mushroom Flatbread, Secret Sunday Chicken; the Glazed Donut Bread Pudding – three rum caramel vanilla and crème anglaise – and the Bourbon Fudge Brownie with brown butter bacon ice cream!


Carson Kitchen also features a full bar of luscious libations featuring specialty cocktails, wines from boutique wineries, and a selection of American craft beers.

This popular hip and trendy restaurant has a warm, welcoming vibe and a knowledgeable, friendly staff whose only goal is to make sure you have a stellar dining experience.

Carson Kitchen is perfect for group reservations, buyouts, and social celebrations.

INTERVIEW WITH CORY HARWELL; CHEF, RESTAURATEUR, AND OWNER OF CARSON KITCHEN.  Cory brings his expertise, adventurous spirit, and culinary skills to his Carson Kitchen Restaurants in Las Vegas, Alpharetta, and Salt Lake City.  This larger-than-life, kind-hearted, generous, and “hilariously-funny” man was a joy to interview!

NSAEN: Tell us about your background and how you got started in the restaurant business.

I grew up in a small town in Georgia and started washing dishes at a little mom & pop joint as a teenager. The restaurant business is really all I’ve ever known.

NSAEN: Who are your mentors, and how have they helped you in the food and beverage industry?

Scott Young, in New York City, was my first mentor. He worked harder than anyone I knew. I still call him whenever I open a new restaurant and say, “thank you.”

NSAEN: In 2014, you and the late Chef Kerry Simon opened the first Carson Kitchen in Downtown Las Vegas. Why did you choose Downtown?

Kerry was friends with Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, and they wanted me to look at this space downtown. I was leery at first, but they both saw what it could be. I started to agree with them, but the concept had to be the right thing. We couldn’t just build any old restaurant downtown; it had to be something hip and new, something different.

NSAEN: How did you and Chef Kerry Simon meet?

He was a customer of mine at my first restaurant, Caña. He fell in love with a shrimp dish that I made, and we were friends from that day on.

NSAEN: How did you come up with the concept and the name for Carson Kitchen?

Kerry and I wanted to build a place that would allow guests to experience what it would be like going to a dinner party at his house. Sitting at the kitchen counter and chatting while listening to great music and watching the cooking going on. Food and drink are the single greatest way we have to connect with another human being, and a dinner party at someone’s home is the most personal form of that connection.

NSAEN: Tell us about the awards and accolades that Carson Kitchen has received?

We were fortunate to have won Best New Restaurant in 2014, Best Appetizer 2014, Best Neighborhood Restaurant 2014, Best Burger 2014, and many more in the years since.

NSAEN: How would you describe your cuisine, and please tell us about some of your signature creations?

Comfortable, recognizable, familiar, and approachable Urban American cuisine. Kerry and I took two approaches to our menu when created. First, we wanted to re-introduce you to dishes or items you may already know by modernizing and re-inventing those dishes. Second, we wanted to introduce you to typically fine-dining ingredients by using them in familiar, comfortable vehicles. For example, we almost trick you into eating caviar by putting it on deviled eggs or eating foie gras by blending it into a sauce and pouring it over our meatballs. We realized that what people ate was affected by their perception of that ingredient, and the price of that ingredient, even more so than the actual flavor. So, we tried to trick your mind into eating something different by putting it into something familiar.

NSAEN: Where does your inspiration/ideas come from when you are creating your menu items?

Everywhere, really. I get inspired by music, art, architecture, you name it, and it probably has inspired a dish or a drink.

NSAEN:  Do any of your guests ask for your recipes?

All the time and we are happy to give them, except for the macaroni & cheese. You can’t have that.

NSAEN:  Do you offer Vegetarian and Vegan dishes?

Numerous and we are creating more. It is such a huge segment of our dining public now.

NSAEN:  Any thoughts on writing a Carson Kitchen Cookbook?

I think I would enjoy writing an actual book and simply using some dishes and recipes as a way to help tell some of the stories.

NSAEN:  What is the price point of your menu?

Most of our dishes are between $10 – $20. The average cost per person, with drinks, is $30.

NSAEN:  Do you offer specialty cocktails? 

We absolutely do, and it is what we are known for. Our specialty cocktails are dynamite.

NSAEN:  Do you take reservations?

Yes, through our website and on Resy.

NSAEN:  Do you offer off-site catering?

Yes, for the right price.

NSAEN:  What do you think patrons are looking for when they go out to eat?

An experience. It isn’t just about the food; it’s everything.

NSAEN:  What type of vibe and décor best describes Carson Kitchen?

High energy; modern industrial minimalist.

NSAEN:  Do you offer outside seating?

We have an outside courtyard and a rooftop patio with a bar.

NSAEN:  What creations do you offer for your Sunday brunch?

Brunch is offered Sunday from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm in all locations and currently features Carson Kitchen plays on all your favorite brunch items like chicken & waffles, French toast, and eggs Benedict.

NSAEN:  How many Carson Kitchens are they, where are they located, and why did you choose those locations?

Carson Kitchen – Las Vegas

Carson Kitchen – Alpharetta

Carson Kitchen – Salt Lake City

NSAEN:  How many more Carson Kitchen’s do you plan to open, and where?

3 – 6 more, we are looking at a number of future cities right now.

NSAEN:  Describe your management style?

People before products before profit.

NSAEN:  What words of wisdom can you offer to someone looking to become a chef/restauranteur?

Get a life! Seriously, get a life outside of your restaurant. It will make you a better person in it.

NSAEN:  Do you have a vision for any other type of restaurant?

We are launching a mid-market steakhouse in late 2021 in Las Vegas.

NSAEN:  How has the pandemic affected your business, and what was it like opening up a new restaurant during this time?

It’s been brutal and could still get a lot worse for many of us. These are very tenuous times.

NSAEN:  What about the business keeps you up at night?

Guest satisfaction.

NSAEN:  What is your favorite part about running a restaurant? 

Guest interaction and the appreciation guests have when we get it right.

NSAEN:  Can you please share some personal information about yourself with our readers?

I’m married to my beautiful wife, Lauren, and I have a gorgeous daughter, Kayla. I’m an avid golfer and love to be outdoors. Lauren and I love traveling and meeting new friends.

NSAEN:  Thank you for your time, Chef, it was a pleasure!!

*Food images credit: Chris Wessling

*Chef Cory Harwell photo credit: Eugene Dela Cruz, OneSevenAgency