Born and raised in Las Vegas, NV, James Trees’ culinary career has been defined by an impressive drive to learn. Before even graduating Las Vegas High School, James joined the kitchen team at the then-cutting edge Mirage Hotel & Casino, where he spent two years under Chef Luke Palladino prior to beginning formal training at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
At 21, he returned to the Vegas Strip as the youngest Sous Chef ever hired at the five-star, five-diamond Bellagio Hotel & Casino for Michael Mina’s Aqua. He then joined the kitchen at Bradley Ogden in Caesars Palace (Best New Restaurant award from James Beard Foundation, a first for any Las Vegas restaurant), then (interrupted briefly by a near-fatal auto accident) returned to the Mina team as Corporate Sous Chef and opened 5 new restaurants with that team including XIV with Stephen Fretz.
After a year working behind the scenes on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares TV production, Chef Trees played a vital role in the revived Los Angeles food scene of the last ten years, with positions including Chef de Cuisine at FIG under Ray Garcia before becoming Corporate Chef for Superba Bread and Pitfire Artisan Pizza, one of the drivers of the pizza revival in Southern California. Other experiences along the way included time with Chef Eric Ripert, Akasha Richmond and at Britain’s legendary The Fat Duck.
But despite all the celebrity pedigree, James Trees’ ambition was to bring all he learned back to his native city, and create a simple ingredient-driven neighborhood restaurant he could call home: Esther’s Kitchen.