Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.
If you hang around the Las Vegas food scene, or attend special culinary events with any regularity, you’re likely to recognize Lee Flint. Since arriving in the valley seven years ago, the 29-year-old has staged, or helped stage, some memorable food and beverage happenings — from beer festivals, to the Whiskey in the Wilderness cookout to the late-night Back of the House Brawl food truck battles.
Flint has also worked on the culinary program for Life is Beautiful every year since its inception. The 2019 festival will mark his second year as food and beverage director, and he’s preparing to announce the details of a re-imagined culinary program before the end of the month.
Las Vegas Review-Journal: How did you get into this field?
Lee Flint: I went to school in the Bay Area, studied English literature, and then moved to Chicago with an internship for an event company that did adventure racing. They also started Firefly music festival. So that was sort of my first foray into event production. I just kind of had a knack for it, and it grew into a passion. And when I was done with that internship, I (headed) west to try to get back to California, and I landed in Vegas.
How did you transition into the culinary side of event planning?
Actually, it stems back to Life is Beautiful. I worked on the first one. … And I just love working with chefs, bartenders, people in the hospitality industry. They’re just very hard-working humble people, and they’re great to be around.
Do you consider yourself a foodie?
Only in the sense that I love food. I don’t really consider myself to have a really advanced palate or anything like that. But I lived in Asia quite a bit as a kid. I learned to eat all kinds of food. So I feel like I have less apprehension toward trying things, and an openness to all kinds of cuisines and culinary experiences. I’ll eat just about anything. And I love the experience of having a meal with people and sharing a table, and that whole social setting.
What’s the most memorable meal you can recall from your personal life?
As a kid I lived in Japan for three years, and a lot of my earliest memories are from Japan. So a lot of my personal comfort foods are Japanese foods. I love ramen houses.
I distinctly remember eating gyoza and ramen at this ramen house.
It was a place my parents took me a lot, because I really loved it. So when I eat ramen, it always evokes memories of going there and having this experience.
How about your professional life?
One of the most memorable (meals) was actually from Life is Beautiful. I think it was in 2014. Hubert Keller was doing a pop-up with lobsters in the VIP area of the Ambassador stage. I remember we brought out the grills that we had, and chef looks at them and was like, “We need more grills, this just won’t do.”
We ended up having to scour the footprint to see where we had grills (and) transporting all these grills around. It’s a lot of work to move a bunch of grills around a music festival that’s happening. But when we got them all there, and fired them up, and there were all these lobster tails, and they were plating them up and serving people, there was so much joy in that area. It was such an amazing sight to see. And it’s funny that my (most memorable) meal from an event is not actually me eating anything. Because I didn’t have a lobster tail.
What’s your goal for Life is Beautiful this year?
The No. 1 thing was to involve as many people from the community as possible. So my focus shifted away from the celebrity chef. Not that we don’t have them, or it’s not important to the program. But I want to try to bring attention to the people who are working in our community and doing cool things.
So we’ve started doing more programs that were not so much vendor focused, and also not so much (created) so only the highest tier ticketholders had access to them. Not as exclusive. So not only was the goal to bring in locals, but also to provide an experience so every ticketholder at the festival can have an amazing culinary experience.
More about Lee Flint:
Place you always take visitors?
If they’re willing to leave the Strip, somewhere in Chinatown. If they’re willing to get out of town, Red Rock or Mount Charleston.
Last concert attended?
I saw Dead & Co. in NYC this summer — John Mayer played Jerry Garcia’s guitar (on loan from the Met) so that was pretty special. I’m looking forward to Clapton at T-Mobile in September.
Favorite vacation destination?
I really enjoy quick trips centered around concerts. Twenty-four to 48 hours is plenty of time to see friends, have some good meals and catch the show without disrupting everyday life too much. Recently I’ve done this in L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and New York. It’s a good way to travel.
I really love tearing into a warm loaf of bread.
I moonlight as The Man in the Golden Jacket, host of Techno Tiki Bingo, which has turned into an industry night and cocktail competition of sorts. (technotikibingo.com)