Since the close of Embers Steakhouse in 2013, the Grand Casino Hotel and Resort lacked a steakhouse inside the gaming center. That open space provided an opportunity for a fresh start. Though employees and directors alike considered a range of options to replace Embers, the final inspiration came from Tribal Chairman John Barrett.
Visits to Brazilian-style steakhouses in his travels across the country convinced Chairman Barrett to develop a similar venue at the Grand Casino. Before progress on such a unique concept could come to fruition though, an extensive search for an executive chef to shape the operation took place. Following months of research and interviews, the selection of Ramon Tolentino moved Flame Brazilian Steakhouse from the negotiating table to the dining room table.
With 23 years of experience working in steakhouses, Tolentino was referred to the opening by a friend while working as executive chef for three Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses in New York City, Atlantic City, N.J. and Baltimore, Md. After his contract with Ruth’s Chris ended, Tolentino went back home to Miami when he was contacted by Paul VanRaamsdonk, Director of Hotel and F&B Operations at the Grand Casino.
Originally from Puerto Rico with familial roots traced back to Italy, Tolentino was born into the restaurant lifestyle. His father owned restaurants in Miami and Puerto Rico and his mother was a culinary teacher.
“This was in my blood from the day I was born,” stated Tolentino. “Being in the restaurant business has always been family business.”
Acquiring a degree from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif., he went on to work for famed Brazilian steakhouse franchise Texas de Brazil for eight years.
“I always had a passion for different food and cultures,” Tolentino explained. “I fell in love with the Brazilian style and was able to learn the concepts from Brazilian chefs while working there.”
Tolentino developed the entire menu for Flame, combining practices from his time at Texas de Brazil with new ideas he had been unable to use in the franchise atmosphere.
“When I came here everyone treated me well and I knew I wanted to be here,” stated Tolentino stated. “My philosophy behind my food has always been what can I do better and what’s best for the guest. I want the best quality of food and best training of my employees so the guests can come here and have a great time.”
To open the restaurant Tolentino and his team researched meat choices for two months before choosing the types that Flame uses. Each sample was tested with Tolentino’s style of cooking. Indicative of the preparation the Miami-native puts into his art, Tolentino spent a month before finding the rice he wanted to use at Flame.
Tolentino personally inspects the restaurant’s food offerings each day to ensure freshness and the same quality as the previous day’s servings.
“If it’s not perfect then it’s not good for the guest,” stated Tolentino
So far the feedback for Flame has been extremely positive. The steakhouse is not just a restaurant for business partners and casino goers though.
“This is a family restaurant,” stated Tolentino. “Everyone is welcome here.”
Judging by the diverse crowds of customers Flame has drawn thus far, that simple statement appears to have found a receptive audience in the areas around the Grand Casino Hotel and Resort.
Kids birthdays, executive lunches and other events are held at Flame in their four private dining rooms.
Flame Brazilian Steakhouse is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturdays it is open from 5-11 p.m. Sundays host brunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., and dinners from 4-9 p.m.
For more information please visit www.grandresortok.com/dining/flame.