Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 | 2:56 p.m.
It’s a powerhouse kickoff to Rehan Choudhry’s much-anticipated new festival Life Is Beautiful this weekend when the backyard barbecue “Grills & Guitars” kicks off Friday night with 16 celebrity chefs and music performances by Todd Rundgren and Dawes. It’s just the opening taste-treat salvo for the inaugural event.
“Top Chef” star Tom Colicchio (Craftsteak at MGM Grand, the new Heritage Steak at the Mirage) and “Chopped” star Scott Conant (Scarpetta in the Cosmopolitan) will be joined by the Too Hot Tamales Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, Cat Cora, Rick Moonen, Jet Tila, Aaron Sanchez, Bruce and Eric Bromberg and others to serve whole roast goat, whole Hawaiian pigs, shrimp and sugarcane skewers — and much more.
Celebrated chef Jonathan Waxman will be honored with the first-ever Commemorative Award for his education and mentoring of many of today’s top toques. Among the more than 60 weekend star chefs, mixologists and winemakers set up in a Moroccan-styled village: Las Vegas darling Carla Pellegrino before she takes off next week to open her Miami restaurant, Hubert Keller, Michael Mina, Paul Bartolotta, Charlie Palmer, Todd English, Kerry Simon, Megan Romano and Grant McPherson.
The feast of the senses also will include the sounds, on four outdoor stages, of The Killers, Kings of Leon, Beck, Empire of the Sun, Imagine Dragons and some 30 other bands. Local 19-year-old singing sensation Sabriel with her blue-eyed soul stylings reminiscent of the late Amy Winehouse will make her debut.
Artists from Cirque du Soleil’s eight Strip shows “Zumanity,” “Ka,” “ Zarkana,” “Mystere,” “Love,” “Believe,” “O” and “Michael Jackson One” also will entertain along with the casts of “Absinthe,” Jabbawockeez, “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Rock of Ages.”
Think of it as nearly 60 hours of nonstop celebration. The full program and timetable for this extraordinary merging of music, food, art and learning can be found at LifeIsBeautifulFestival.com. More than 35 guest speakers for the learning area include Zappos chief Tony Hsieh, “Glee’s” Harry Shum Jr., fitness guru Tony Horton, UFC fighter Forrest Griffin and Human Calculator Scott Flansburg, who is the Guinness Book of World Records titleholder for highest speed of mental calculation.
Even the cast of MTV’s hit reality-TV documentary series “The Buried Life” will be speaking about accomplishments before death. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the 10 closed-off city blocks events that will showcase the continuing $350 million transformation and revitalization of downtown Las Vegas. The excitement is so big already that talks about next year’s second festival have begun.
Check back throughout the weekend for all of our Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly and Vegas DeLuxe reports, photos and tweets. Festival producer Rehan Choudhry, former entertainment chief at the Cosmopolitan, summed up: “It’s an unprecedented lineup of musicians, chefs, artists and speakers. They will entertain, engage and encourage festivalgoers all within a historic urban environment. We want this convergence to inspire people to find the beauty in life.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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