September 20, 2022



L to R: GM David Grates poses at Balla Italian Soul; The Balla Executive Team: GM David Grates, Executive Chef Michael Vargas, AGM Dani Cachu, Sous Chefs Pedro Becerra and Jamie Gonzales
 (Photos Courtesy of SAHARA Las Vegas)


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LAS VEGAS (September 2022) – SAHARA Las Vegas announces the executive team joining Balla Italian Soul, the newest restaurant by James Beard Award-Winning Chef Shawn McClain opening Saturday, October 8.

Executive Chef Michael Vargas
With more than 18 years of experience in operations for upscale restaurants and hotels, Michael Vargas brings high-level cooking techniques and exceptional cuisine to Balla as its executive chef. Vargas not only offers expertise in gastronomy and creative menu development, but also in leadership, training and restaurant development. Over the course of his notable career, Vargas has improved food quality and consistency, built stronger and more cohesive teams, invigorated workplace morale and contributed to controlled food costs at several different venues and properties. Prior to joining Balla at SAHARA Las Vegas, Vargas served as executive chef for T-Bones Chophouse inside Red Rock Resort as well as Sadelle’s inside the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. Additional past culinary roles on the Las Vegas Strip include executive sous chef at Carbone inside ARIA Resort & Casino, assistant chef for catering at ARIA Resort & Casino, chef de partie at Twist by Pierre Gagnaire inside Mandarin Oriental and junior sous chef at MOzen Bistro inside Mandarin Oriental. Vargas also tenured several positions at the iconic Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas and the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale, Arizona.

General Manager David Grates
As general manager of Balla, David Grates manages the restaurant’s daily operations, leads a high-performing team of hospitality professionals, adjusts procedures to increase profitability and guest satisfaction, checks quality control for food and beverage, manages communication between the restaurant and hotel and ensures guest interaction and satisfaction, among other duties. With more than 10 years of experience in restaurant management, Grates is passionate about efficient operations, team member coaching and training, food quality and guest satisfaction. Prior to his current role at SAHARA Las Vegas, Grates worked at CHICA Las Vegas inside The Venetian Resort as the restaurant’s assistant general manager and beverage manager. Overseeing all aspects of the beverage program and working directly with the culinary team, he oversaw day-to-day operations of 200 to 500 daily covers, equating to more than $10 million in annual sales.  Additionally, Grates worked at several distinguished restaurants in Indiana, including Bear’s Place Ale House and Eatery as the general manager and managing partner as well as Bob Evans Farm as the general manager. 

Assistant General Manager Dani J. Cachu
As the assistant general manager of Balla, Dani J. Cachu assists in the daily operations of the restaurant, creates staff schedules as needed, places daily orders and reviews cost reports, profit-and-loss reports and daily revenue reports. Cachu is passionate about the culinary teams she gets to work with and looks forward to making Balla into a must-visit destination inside SAHARA Las Vegas. Prior to her current role, Cachu served as food and beverage operations manager for SAHARA Las Vegas, manager of Bella Bistro inside SAHARA Las Vegas, manager of Uno Más Street Tacos + Spirits inside SAHARA Las Vegas, assistant manager of outlets for SLS Las Vegas and junior sommelier at GIADA inside The Cromwell. Additionally, Cachu worked as a gourmet food server at a number of restaurants throughout Las Vegas. She has studied wine and has received a sherry certification from The House of Lustau, and has taken and passed the Introductory Level 1 exam with The Court of Master Sommeliers. 

Sous Chef Jamie Gonzalez
With more than 15 years of experience in the culinary industry, Jamie Gonzalez joins Balla inside SAHARA Las Vegas as its sous chef. Gonzalez brings a creative and innovative approach to managing staff, cultivating comradery and improving customer service. He is also renowned for his outstanding communication with guests, staff and vendors to ensure satisfaction. Prior to his current role, Gonzalez worked at a number of culinary hot spots in Las Vegas, including SoulBelly BBQ as its sous chef, Gallagher’s Steakhouse inside New York-New York as its chef de partie, Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar inside Park MGM as its chef tournant and Libertine Social inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino as its sous chef. He also worked at a number of venues inside ARIA Resort & Casino, including FIVE50 Pizza Bar as its sous chef, Bardot Brasserie as its sous chef and Sage as its chef tournant. Gonzalez brings more than 10 years of notable experience working with James Beard Award-winning chefs Shawn McClain and Richard Camarota at all of their Las Vegas restaurants to his new role.

Sous Chef Pedro Becerra-Carrizales Jr.
Pedro Becerra-Carrizales Jr brings extensive knowledge of cooking techniques, knife skills and kitchen equipment and supplies to his new role as sous chef for Balla inside SAHARA Las Vegas. With nearly 10 years of experience in the culinary arts, Becerra-Carrizales Jr. looks forward to bringing his excellent customer service and interpersonal skills to his new position to provide guests with incredible experiences. Before joining the Balla team, he worked at a number of notable Las Vegas restaurants, including Carbone inside ARIA Resort & Casino as a cook, Rose. Rabbit. Lie. inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as a line cook, Bouchon by Thomas Keller inside The Venetian Resort Las Vegas as chef de partie and Bread and Butter as a line cook.

The newest restaurant from James Beard Award Winner Chef Shawn McClain and McClain Camarota Hospitality Group, Balla Italian Soul celebrates the ingredient-driven flavors of the Italian coast. The energetic new restaurant launches at SAHARA Las Vegas in Fall 2022 with bold flavors, bright colors and a relaxed Mediterranean vibe. Follow Balla Italian Soul on Instagram and Facebook for updates.

SAHARA Las Vegas is an all-encompassing resort and casino with 1,613 guest rooms and suites in three distinctive towers – including the AAA® Four Diamond Alexandria Tower, more than 85,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, AZILO Ultra Pool, two rooftop pools and a collection of acclaimed restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. The inviting casino occupies 60,000 square feet and features approximately 600 of the latest slot and video poker machines, 50 classic table games, Infinity – a premium gaming lounge, The Poker Room at SAHARA Las Vegas and a sports book operated by global gaming leader, William Hill. An impressive selection of culinary and cocktail offerings includes Bazaar Meat by José Andrés™, named “Best Restaurant in Nevada” by Business Insider; famed Philadelphia sports bar Chickie’s & Pete’s; The Noodle Den from renowned Chef Guoming “Sam” Xin; CASBAR Lounge; Uno Más; Prendi; The Tangier; Zeffer’s and, coming soon, James Beard award-winning Chef Shawn McClain’s Balla. SAHARA Las Vegas is also proud to serve as home to MAGIC MIKE LIVE Las Vegas presented by Channing Tatum. SAHARA Las Vegas players can also enjoy the perks of an Infinity Rewards membership, a joint loyalty program between SAHARA and its sister property Grand Sierra Resort and Casino Reno, which gives players the opportunity to earn and redeem rewards across both destinations. SAHARA Las Vegas is a minority-owned business certified by the Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council. For more information, please visit and stay connected on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Erika Pope/Jevaughn Williams
The Vox Agency,
(702) 249-2977 / (702) 334-5537

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