One of the best ways to experience the soul of a destination is through its food, and the 29th annual Chefs Food Fest in Laughlin more than delivered the town’s true spirit. Sponsored by the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce as a fundraiser, this sold-out gastronomical evening festival with some 600-plus attendees was held Thursday, June 9 inside the Aquarius Pavilion at the Aquarius Casino Resort.

Food is unquestionably a great social equalizer. The format for Chefs Food Fest has resort chefs and food and beverage departments, along with some local restaurants and spirit distributors, going all out to create compelling food and beverage dishes that deliver an incredible collection of savory memories. The creativity of the chefs and their staffs are one of the occasion’s main attractions.

Elaborate booth displays surround the perimeter of the ballroom while round tables for 10 are situated throughout the center of the room. Sometimes it’s difficult to find your way back to your table with your third and fourth plate of food, but it is fun meeting new folks along the way.

In addition to the fabulous culinary creations, friendly rivalry and one-upmanship prevails. The event is a competition in four categories with the guests doing the voting. At the very end of the evening, four traveling trophies are awarded. This year it was Nevada Beverage Company receiving the Most Flavorful and Fun Presentation by a liquor distributor.

In the food departments, the Sweetest Dessert Sensation went to Harrah’s Laughlin serving the ever tempting Frangelico chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate-dipped macaroons. All of the properties create displays brimming with innovative food combinations and offer stiff competition. Best Epicurean Experience went to the Colorado Belle and Edgewater Casino Resorts serving seafood, salads, entrees and dessert. Was it the mushroom-bacon mac ’n cheese, the jumbo prawns or the lobster chopped salad that won people over?

For Finest Booth Presentation, the pick was challenging with the Avi Resort & Casino’s Hawaiian theme presenting a totally ensconced tropical environment beating out the astounding full-size ice bar Aquarius built.

It’s fun to watch the culinary teams working together and spotting them wearing their chef hats. They work hard and can be very proud of their accomplishments. While admiring the bread display at the Aquarius booth that had a jumbo dough cornucopia with all sorts of bread flowing out of it, the creator of the sculptured display passed by and acknowledged his handiwork. You could really appreciate the care he put into it.

The beauty of this festivity is all the Laughlin resorts participate and each is a winner just presenting their best culinary skills. Additionally the Riverside Resort, Golden Nugget, Pioneer with its Bumbleberry Flats American comfort food, Tropicana Express and the Stratosphere from Las Vegas, which is a sister property to the Aquarius, make the evening an overwhelming smorgasbord of food choices. This event is a big fundraiser to benefit the River Fund Inc., which helps struggling families in the area. The proceeds can assist with emergency service referrals, special cases of displaced homeless families, as well as regional disaster relief.

After dining, mingling and finding your way back to your table, the evening’s fundraising is aided by a live auction. More than 17 packages this year were offered including a Big Bear Lake all-inclusive trip, a dinner for eight to 10 people at your home prepared by the Stratosphere, as well as hotel stays, tours, paintings and more. How nice that you can eat, drink and help those in need at this foodie outing.

The first Chefs Food Fest was actually held in October, which continued that way for years, but a few years back it was moved to June. It seemed in October the harvest theme with pumpkins was always present and in June there is no real compelling seasonal look, thus allowing and encouraging an environment of imagination.

Food has been proven to be a major part of the tourism experience. For visitors to this river destination, Chefs Food Fest is a marvelous way to be introduced to the many varied dining options available. In the culinary world, Laughlin can hold its own for sure and that is a proven fact every year at this palate-pleasing dining experience.

Tickets for Chef Fest were $50 and $500 for a table of 10. For more information, call 702-298-2214 or visit www.laughlinchamber.org. Guests must be 21 years of age and over. It’s not too soon to be considering tickets for next year.