Eating My Words
I’ll be honest: There was something I dreaded about taking the helm at Desert Companion a few months ago. It wasn’t the management meetings, board reports, HR paperwork, or even the stress of being responsible for the accuracy and appeal of every word in these pages. It was the annual Restaurant Awards. Don’t get me wrong, I love assigning and editing stories generally. But this specific story is not only Desert Companion’s signature service piece, but also an entire project that lives beyond our pages. Once my part is done, Nevada Public Radio’s event and marketing staff swings into action, planning an awards dinner with trophies, distinguished guests, big reveals — the whole (nixtamalized corn, Oaxaca queso, and guajillo chile) enchilada.
My predecessor, Andrew Kiraly, who I swear has eaten at every restaurant in Las Vegas twice, loved dishing on chefs’ latest ventures with our esteemed critics. I enjoy food, too … in the manner of someone who follows Lidia Bastianich and uses cooking as therapy. In the last decade, I’ve trended toward spending less time and money in restaurants, more in the outdoors. Facing a table surrounded by Jim Begley, John Curtas, Genevie Durano, and Heidi Knapp Rinella, I was more daunted than facing a 20-mile hike.
But I also understood that this project isn’t about me. It’s about us, Las Vegas, as a food town. So, I did what journalists do. I asked questions — both in and outside the usual circle of sources. I listened. I took notes. And I’m glad I did, because not only did I learn more in the last two months about the local dining scene than I had in my previous 18 years here, but also, I understood the real reason why the restaurant awards are important (hint: it’s not the trophies). And I heard that readers want more — to celebrate the elevated and the pedestrian. So, to this issue, we’ve added a special dining section called Street Eats looking at people and places that bring joy to everyday dining in Las Vegas.
I’ve tried a few of the places in both the Restaurant Awards and Street Eats so far, and I’m feeling inspired to try many more. I’ve discovered it’s worth skipping a hike occasionally to support a hardworking chef. Thanks to the whole team, and our readers, for giving me an excuse to eat out tonight.