Las Vegas’ Top Chefs Head for the Hills for Whiskey in the Wilderness

The second annual culinary pop-up will take place at Spring Mountain Ranch on January 14

With the temperature dipping into the 40s (and lower in some parts of the Valley), it’s the perfect time to gather round a campfire.

That’s part of the motivation behind Whiskey in the Wilderness, an annual collaboration of the city’s culinary tastemakers that will be held January 14 at Spring Mountain Ranch near Red Rock Canyon.

“I want it to be cold,” says Justin Kingsley Hall, event co-founder and chef at The Kitchen at Atomic. “I want people to hang out by the fire and chat with somebody.”

Now in its second year, the pop-up event will feature lauded chefs such as Julien Asseo of Guy Savoy, Johnny Church of Aureole and Gina Marinelli, who will prepare feasts on open-fire grills while bartenders Bryant Jane and Lyle Cervenka of Starboard Tack, Juyoung Kang of The Dorsey and Anthony Jamison of Sand Dollar Lounge, among others, sling cocktails. The gathering will also host a whiskey seminar, live music courtesy of Dan Fester and an auction of a painting by Jerry Misko. Proceeds will benefit the Urban Seed Foundation and California wildfire relief efforts.

Hall and co-founder Lee Flint created the event as a way to celebrate the Las Vegas Valley, highlighting not only those who prepare the food and drinks we love, but also its surroundings.

“It’s a new experience as far as food and beverage goes,” Hall says. “It takes you out of your element. It takes you away from the Strip. It becomes very much a community-based experience.”

A big draw is being able to interact one-on-one with chefs and sample dishes from some of the most popular places in Las Vegas, which could get costly if you hit up the restaurants featured at Whiskey in the Wilderness individually.

The inaugural Whiskey in the Wilderness was held last March in Mount Charleston. It was so warm that some chefs—in particular, those with shiny bald heads like Hall—got sunburn. The crowd of about 100 were treated to dishes ranging from duck bone soup, made by chef Brian Howard as a preview to his then-forthcoming Sparrow + Wolf, to a Southern pozole prepared by chef Josh Smith of Bardot Brasserie. Both chefs will return for Year Two.

Before the event had even wrapped up, Hall knew they had to do another one. “Talking to the crowds, bartenders and chefs last time, they were having such a good time that halfway through, they were like, ‘Next time, let’s do this …,’” Hall says.

Hall hopes for a third year and beyond, so that he and Flint can continue to showcase different talents and help different charities. They’re also planning offshoot events such as an upcoming train ride in Boulder City that will feature a local chef and mixologist. Hall wants to tie it in to International Women’s Day in March to “promote the badass women we have in the Valley,” he says. “There’s such a cast here that’s severely underappreciated.”

While food is what lures people to Hall’s events, it’s all about human connection and getting a better understanding of the people who drive Las Vegas’ culinary industry.

“I want [guests] to have intimate conversations with [our chefs] and get a sense of who they are,” he says. “There are some amazing stories out there that could inspire others.”

Whiskey in the Wilderness

Jan. 14, 1–4 p.m., $155, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park,