Vegas likes to eat. This town is full of so many food, wine, beer, and whiskey festivals, it's hard to keep track of them all. (We try from time to time.) Yet the biggest culinary event of the year is Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit. Nothing else really comes close in terms of size and scope.
"It's kind of like the Avengers," says Adam Rapoport, the guy in charge of Uncork'd. "You've got a bunch of big names teaming up to create this festival where the sum is greater than the parts. You've got Caesars, the Cosmopolitan, MGM, Venetian, and Wynn this year."
Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit, has been overseeing Vegas Uncork'd since 2012, although the festival dates back 13 years now. The concept was inspired by the opening of the Bellagio and other resorts in the mid-'90s that helped usher in the era of the celebrity chef -- big names who wanted to expand their culinary empires to Las Vegas with restaurants on the Strip. It only made sense to bring them together for a one-of-a-kind event, Vegas Strip-style.
"You could do that white tent approach where there's a bunch of chefs cooking in portable kitchens with kiosks," Rapoport says, but that would squander the draw of the resorts and casinos. "Why not bring the people into the properties? Because the properties themselves are such attractions."
So instead of bringing the restaurants to the festival, Vegas Uncork'd brings the festival to the restaurants. This allows chefs and mixologists to put together experiences that are more authentic, unique, and -- with the exception of the Grand Tasting -- more intimate.
"So if you're going to eat Nobu's food, you get to eat food cooked by Nobu himself in Nobu," adds Rapoport. "You get to meet Gordon Ramsay and eat his food in one of his restaurants."
This year, Vegas Uncork'd runs May 9-12, squeezing 25 different events into four days. No, you're not supposed to eat at all of them. These events are pricey, with some running north of $200 for a GA ticket. But idea is to pick your favorites and navigate your way through an experience that works for you. Have a Champagne brunch and truffle making class at the Cosmopolitan with Christina Tosi at 11am, learn about craft cocktails at Electra inside the Palazzo at 3pm, attend a multi-course wine-pairing dinner by Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace at 6:30pm, and round out the night with cocktails and a tour of the Mob Museum's speakeasy and distillery at 9:30pm. And that's just Saturday.
Uncork'd also isn't the only show in town this weekend. There's also Vegas Unstripped, an unaffiliated, but much cheaper, local neighborhood festival fueled by its own formation of top-notch local chefs, some of whom previously worked on the Strip. Read on for pro tips to navigating Uncork'd, its can't-miss events, and how to make the most of that other big food festival happening in Vegas this weekend.