Take tour of tummy ticklers at Culinary Village

There are likely to be a lot of familiar faces for those who visit the Culinary Village part of the Life Is Beautiful festival this weekend.

“Most of them are local, or at least have restaurants here,” Jolene Mannina, head of culinary arts at the festival, says of the 40 exhibitors at the village.

An exception, she says, is Donald Link of New Orleans. The Franco-American Herbsaint was Link’s first restaurant, followed by the Cajun/Southern Cochon, plus Cochon Butcher and Peche Seafood Grill, all in the Big Easy.

“He’s taking over all of Culinary Village North,” on the north side of Fremont Street, Mannina says of Link. “It’s going to be just New Orleans food. We’re pretty excited about it — a whole hog roast, a boudin station.”

Although it’ll be the most dedicated source, Link’s won’t be the only place to get New Orleans-style food at the Culinary Village. Local chefs Megan Romano, chef/owner of Chocolate &Spice Bakery, and Natalie Young, chef/owner of Eat, will be making beignets in their space in Culinary Village South, on the corresponding side of Fremont.

“We’re friendly, and that makes for a good mix,” Romano says of her collaboration with Young. “It’s kind of nice to have a buddy to do this with.”

She says they’ll serve the beignets with two sauces, a sriracha-infused chocolate and salted honey caramel. They’ll also offer pumpkin caramel popcorn.

“It’s just fun, accessible, good food,” Romano says.

They’ve been getting in all of the necessary equipment, including a dough proofer, fryers and sauce warmers. Although they’ll be just a short hop from Young’s restaurant, it’s not short enough.

“She’s close by, but nothing’s close enough,” Romano says. “With the number of people, I think we’re going to want everything right behind us.”

Romano and Young have been prepping as much as possible to meet a demand that, because this is the first Life Is Beautiful festival, is uncertain but expected to be huge.

“We’re one of two dessert spots, which is a key point I didn’t know in the beginning,” she says. “We’re making the dough now, and we’ll make as much as we can. Given some of the changes that have been going on, everyone’s trying to get their head around it. At this point we’ll be doing the best we can, and I’m sure it will all work out.”

Among the other faces that will be familiar to culinary aficionados who are Las Vegas residents or frequent visitors are chefs representing Blue Ribbon Sushi (Bruce and Eric Bromberg), Honey Salt (Kim Canteenwalla), Fleur (Hubert Keller), StripSteak (Michael Mina), the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Border Grill (Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger and Mike Minor), DOCG Enoteca (Scott Conant), Bratalian (Carla Pellegrino), Kumi Japanese Restaurant (Akira Back), RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room (Rick Moonen), KGB (Kerry Simon), ‘wichcraft (Tom Collichio) and Kuma Snow Cream (Jet Tila).

And local favorites Le Thai, Bronze Cafe, Biscayne, Due Forni, Curbside Cafe, Forte Tapas, the LBS Patty Wagon, Lobster Me, Nacho Daddy, Origin India, the Park on Fremont, Nosh &Swig, Sin City Dogs and Wa Da Fo will be among the restaurants represented, as well as Artisinal Foods, a wholesale and retail purveyor.

Hours for the Culinary Village are 1 p.m. to midnight Saturday and noon to 11 p.m. Sunday. Admission is included in festival general-admission and VIP tickets; food and beverages will be a la carte.

Mannina said most of the chefs will have 10-by-10-foot or 10-by-20-foot spaces, and there will be three 30-by-30 spaces.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.