They call it “Paella for the people.” Valencian Gold is a new fast casual restaurant housed in the suburbs off the Las Vegas Strip. It’s also the brainchild of a proud Mission College graduate, Jeffrey Weiss.
“[Mission College’s] facilities are better than damn near any cooking school,” said Weiss. “To me, Mission College is a gift…yes, you get the culinary foundation and education so if you want to go that way you can go that way, but, beyond that, you’re also exposed to the business practices and the sorts of things that you need to know about the basics of business and that’s huge.”
Weiss took what he learned at Mission College and continued his education at Cornell University. After Cornell, he met his now business partner, Chef Paras Shah, while the two of them were studying in an exclusive culinary program in Spain.
The program invited chefs from all over the world to live in Spain for a year and immerse themselves in Spanish cooking. As the only two Americans, Shah and Weiss were thrown together a lot.
“It was kind of like The Perfect Strangers thing,” said Shah with a laugh. “I was Balki Bartokomous to Jeff’s Cousin Larry. The whole thing was that we met over there and we didn’t know each other at all.”
But they grew close during that year abroad. The next year, they returned to America and went their separate ways, but stayed in constant contact. When Weiss called up Shah a few years ago with his idea for a fast casual paella restaurant, Shah didn’t hesitate to say, “I’m in.”
“I consider Jeff a family member. He’s my brother,” said Shah. “There’s nobody else that I’d want to go through this crazy situation with.”
Valencian Gold opened up on July 12. The concept is build-your-own paella bowl, with your choice of paella, greens, protein and other additions. Weiss and Shah hope it’s the start of a series of fast casual paella restaurants.
Weiss says he and Shah wanted to open in California, but simply could not find the right location. When friends told them Las Vegas was a great option, they were skeptical at first. They came around to the idea when they started visiting Vegas suburbs and discovered an extremely supportive hospitality community.
“The more we started talking to people, the more we met cooks and we met people that work in the business, we realized, this is where these guys live and when they come home at the end of their shift, there isn’t a lot for them and there is this both need and desire for concepts like Valencian Gold,” said Weiss.
Weiss credits a great deal of his success as a chef and his move into this new business venture to what he learned right here in the Bay Area. While attending Mission College, Weiss also worked at Lion and Compass, the well-regarded Sunnyvale restaurant that closed in 2017.
Weiss worked alongside Chef Steve Chan at Lion and Compass, a man he now proudly calls his mentor.
“I was fortunate enough to be in [Steve Chan’s] kitchen and learn at the elbow of someone who has been a master of the business,” said Weiss. “He instilled in me so much of the skills but also the passion for hospitality, and all the things that were only being reinforced every day while I was in classes at Mission College.”
Valencian Gold is located at 7960 South Rainbow Blvd. in Las Vegas. While the restaurant is in its first few weeks of existence, Weiss says he’s already happy with the results.
“We’re putting out food and a product that we believe in and that we’re very passionate about and that, to me, is the large part of what we worry about is making sure that it’s something we can stand behind and love and all that and then the rest will come,” said Weiss.
To learn more about Valencian Gold, visit their website: valenciangold.com