Las Vegas chefs celebrate Spam’s 80th birthday

Las Vegas chefs celebrate Spam’s 80th birthday

It’s one of those things we love to hate — so vehemently its name is more commonly linked to the internet junk-mail scourge.

Yet it’s difficult to argue the success of Spam, which has survived for 80 years (the official anniversary is today) and sold more than 8 billion units. It’s downright beloved in Hawaii, and Las Vegas’ unofficial status as the Ninth Island means it has a particularly high profile here, even in some restaurants.

“It’s on our menus,” said Ben Gries, executive chef of the California Hotel in downtown Las Vegas. “Spam and eggs in the morning, that’s the big one. In our Noodle House we have Spam fried rice. We also have Hawaiians who work at the Cal, so we have it in our team-member dining room.”

Gries, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, said he grew up eating Spam with his father.

“When you open it and take it out of the can you look at it and go, ‘OK,’ ” he said. “But when you grill it, it looks pretty good.”

Does Gries eat it himself?

“Not a lot,” he said. “But once in a while you get a craving for it.”

Maybe the common denominator is downtown, which has a high proportion of Hawaiian visitors, but Jeff Martell, executive chef at the Plaza, said he likes Spam as well.

“It’s very versatile,” Martell said. “You can do a lot of things with it — appetizers, sandwiches, as an entree.”

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