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Jolene Manina
Jolene Manina

Before Life Is Beautiful officially kicks off, the festival’s culinary crew will throw a pre-party called Grills and Guitars on Friday, Oct. 25. Set for an undisclosed downtown location, the event will feature 16 chefs, including Tom Colicchio, Michael Symon, Aaron Sanchez, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen, Kim Canteenwalla, Scott Conant and Jet Tila.

“It’s gonna be sort of this camping theme to it,” says the festival’s culinary coordinator, Jolene Manina. “So everybody’s gonna be grilling.”

The event will be hosted by Bruce and Eric Bromberg of The Cosmopolitan’s Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill. And they’ve chosen to honor legendary chef Jonathan Waxman with the festival’s first culinary award, which will be entitled Jonathan Waxman is Beautiful.

“The more we spoke about what Life Is Beautiful was really about, and what it meant on all levels,” says Bruce Bromberg, “it just kept dawning upon me that somebody like Jonathan was kind of the person that embodied more of the elements of the festival than anyone else I could think of.”

In addition to all the great food, fans will be entertained with musical performances by Dawes and Todd Rundgren.

General admission tickets are $175 apiece. VIP tickets, which get you access to all of the fun an hour earlier, are $225. AL MANCINI