In 2013, Life Is Beautiful was far ahead of the curve when it came to food at concert festivals. As competitors across the country struggle to catch up, the festival’s managing director Eve Cohen feels our Downtown festival is still unique. “What we’re doing is different in that the actual chefs are on site interacting with their fans and their guests,” she says. “That is not something you see at these various festivals that are trying to imitate what we’ve done.”
Dining at last year’s event was particularly satisfying because of the decision to move the celebrity chefs and restaurants out of a single culinary village on the outskirts of the grounds and scatter them throughout the footprint, closer to the stages. The festival will take a similar approach this year, with three culinary villages open to the public. The largest of these, at the Ambassador Stage, will feature a beer garden, sod and shade. That beer garden will be curated by Wirtz Beverage Nevada’s Michael Shetler, and will feature 24 craft beers to accompany the 15 restaurant booths and five food trucks in the surrounding village.
This year’s culinary participants will include such popular local restaurants as Culinary Dropout, Gimme Some Sugar, VegeNation, Hash House A Go Go, MTO Café, RM Seafood, N9NE Steakhouse, Nobu, Nacho Daddy and Origin India as well as popular food trucks, including Buldogis Gourmet Hotdogs, Stripchezze, Cousin’s Maine Lobster and Truck U Barbecue. Cuisine from Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar will only be available for purchase by those who have VIP wristbands.
Despite having several notable celebrity chefs—including Hubert Keller, Barry Dakake, Nobu Matsuhisa and Rick Moonen—the list is missing a bit of the star power of previous years, concentrating instead on chefs from casual local favorites. But that doesn’t mean more big names won’t be present. Rather than feeding the masses, however, many of them will conduct the festival’s cooking demos, with three planned for each day. They include Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla, Akira Back, Duff Goldman, Sam Marvin, Carla Pellegrino, Moonen and Keller.
As far as those demos go, rather than being open to everyone as they were in the past, they’ll take place in the VIP section, but they’ll still be streamed to screens in the general admission sections. And the good news for those lucky enough to score those VIP tickets is that the demos will now double as pop-up restaurants. So in addition to watching the chefs prepare a dish, you’ll also get to sample it.
This is only the start of the Life Is Beautiful culinary program rollout—new names and event details are being added daily, and we’ll continue to report them as they come. But changes notwithstanding, one thing is clear: Come hungry!