As Life is Beautiful turns 5, it’s lost some foodie appeal

If you’re attending Life is Beautiful this weekend, you’ll have great dining options from top Las Vegas restaurants, both on and off the Strip.

From its inception in 2013, the festival has shone a spotlight on some of this city’s finest food and best chefs. But as anyone who has been attending from the beginning has probably noticed, that spotlight isn’t quite as bright today as it was then.

The chef list for the inaugural festival was announced with huge fanfare at a massive Fremont Street party.

“We had 50 chefs on our lineup, so the culinary portion was really strong,” says Jolene Mannina, who headed the culinary lineup that year.

“The names of the chefs were on the marquee,” recalls locally based celebrity chef Rick Moonen, whose restaurants have been represented at every Life is Beautiful. “Our names were next to The Killers and all the other big bands that were performing.”

A look back at the official poster for the first event shows more than 40 chefs’ names. Along with Moonen, it included celebrity chefs Scott Conant, Hubert Keller, Michael Mina, Tom Colicchio, Charlie Palmer, Mary Sue Milliken, Jet Tila, Susan Feniger, Kerry Simon and Todd Engligh, all of whom had local restaurants. But there were also plenty of big names who had never operated in Las Vegas, including Jonathan Waxman, Cat Cora and Michael Symon.

small pic description goes here

Life is Beautiful 2013 poster (Facebook)

Life is Beautiful founder Rehan Choudhry, who is no longer involved with the festival, says the entire event was inspired by the experience of planning a meal for friends.

“If you’re going to throw a dinner party for 10 of your friends at your house,” he says, “you would factor four things into it: the food and drink you’re going to serve, the music you’re going to play in the background, the art on the wall — or the décor — and the conversation.”

Food at forefront

And at the first LIB, food was a big draw. The night before the main concert kickoff, chefs and musicians joined forces at a special event called Grills and Guitars. During the festival, chefs provided approximately 20 cooking demonstrations and seminars on the concert grounds. And there were several exclusive, ticketed VIP dining experiences, including an ultra-exclusive $5,000-a-head charity dinner.

small pic description goes here

Life is Beautiful 2013 “Grills and Guitars” poster, (Facebook)

In 2014, while the culinary component of the festival was tweaked, food remained at the forefront. The single culinary village that allowed chefs to sell their food to the general admission crowd was expanded to several that year, scattered throughout the village for easier access.

Although the pricey ticketed culinary experiences were eliminated, new features were added. Chef Jose Andres, for example, spoke about Third World cooking conditions and used solar kitchens designed to remedy those conditions to cook for concertgoers.

In the years since, however, foodie-friendly offerings have dwindled, and those that remain are barely promoted. Grills and Guitars has been scrapped. The only food or beverage seminars planned this year are unpublicized 50-person cocktail demos. (If you want to score a ticket, try hanging out near The Writer’s Block Book Shop on Fremont Street between 4 and 6 daily.) Simply finding a list of participating restaurants on the festival website requires first navigating to the lineup page, then utilizing a pull-down menu.

Celebrity chefs are a minimal part of this year’s show. Moonen, Mario Batali, Hubert Keller and Brian Malarkey are the only notable names represented on the list of about 60 restaurants serving food. And your chances of spotting any of them on the grounds are slim.

“I’ll probably visit a few times,” says Moonen, whose restaurants have participated every year, but who personally skipped last year’s festival. “But I’m not going to wake up early in the morning and take shuttles to make sure I’m there early enough to open up with the staff.”

Too ambitious?

Mannina, who hasn’t been involved since the first year, suggests festival organizers tried to do too much, too soon.

“We really went heavy the first year,” she admits. “We went really hardcore. So it’s something that maybe we should have grown into, because it’s a heavy expense to add a culinary element to a large festival like that.”

Yet she and others involved that first year point to other festivals that have built on what Life is Beautiful started.

“Now Coachella has a massive culinary lineup,” Mannina says. “Kaaboo (in San Diego) just came out with a big culinary lineup. BottleRock (in Napa) just came out with a big culinary lineup. So all these events that are established are now adding that piece to it.”

Speaking privately, many local chefs say they miss what Life is Beautiful once was. So could organizers bring back some of the larger culinary elements at future events? When asked, the festival’s culinary manager, Samantha Seier, said she was unprepared to answer that question, and asked that it be submitted via email. When we followed up, asking specifically about cooking demonstrations, chefs speaking on social issues, culinary/musical collaborations and whether she would like to see them at future festivals, she provided the following response:

“As with our music, art and ideas pillars, the Life is Beautiful culinary program is always evolving. Every year, we look to create a unique culinary experience by curating an exciting lineup of new participants, offerings and returning fan favorites. Life is Beautiful is excited to continue growing this important festival aspect as well as provide attendees a variety of amazing food options year after year.”

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
5 must-see bands at Punk Rock Bowling 2018
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s
Gabi Coffee & Bakery Is Like A Korean Speakeasy From The 1920s (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
Five must-see acts at the Electric Daisy Carnival 2018
The "13 Reasons Why" mustang cruises down the Las Vegas Strip (Courtesy Netflix)
4 fun and fascinating museums in Las Vegas
U2 in Vegas through the years
U2 in Vegas through the years
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food
Dirt Dog In Las Vegas Makes Crazy L.A. Street Food (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Black Tap In Las Vegas Makes This Instagram-ready Golden Knights Shake (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre Premieres Until December
‘Until December’ debuts at ‘Ballet & Broadway’ season finale (Carol Cling Las Vegas
Celebrate The Golden Knights With Knights-inpired Latte Art (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single
Yodeling Boy Mason Ramsey Signs With Atlantic Records, Debuts First Single Ramsey, who shot to fame after a viral video of him yodeling at an Illinois Walmart surfaced, just debuted “Famous.” “If I'm gonna be famous for somethin'/I wanna be famous for lovin' you/If I'm gonna be known around the world/I wanna because of you, girl” Mason Ramsey, “Famous” It’s been quite the rush to stardom for the 11-year-old, who appeared on The Ellen Show and performed at Coachella earlier this month. “I’d been to Nashville a few times before, but never thought something like this would happen. It’s a dream to sign with Atlantic and Big Loud.” Mason Ramsey “I loved recording ‘Famous’ and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.”
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala
Steve Aoki, Pitbull And Other Stars Make An Apperance At The "Keep Memory Alive" Gala. (Janna Karel Las Vegas review-Journal)
"Hamilton" Fans Line Up Overnight At Smith Center To Get Tickets
"Hamilton" fans line up overnight at Smith Center to get tickets. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 concerts to see in Las Vegas this week
You can visit the speakeasy in The Mob Museum's basement... if you know the password
6 new foods hitting movie theaters in 2018
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like