Monday, October 29, 2018
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL IN SUMMERLIN
FOR ONE OF LAS VEGAS’ TOP FOODIES
Las Vegas is a city built on connections. In the early 1900s, the rail line that connected Los Angeles to Salt Lake City ran through Southern Nevada, attracting farmers and ranchers to the area. Fast forward to the 1940s when connected mob figures like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky built The Flamingo, proving a luxury hotel with gambling as the headliner could be big business in the godforsaken Mojave Desert. From the city’s all-powerful founding families and notorious but oft beloved organized crime figures to powerhouses like Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. who forever changed the city’s landscape by legitimizing gaming properties via corporate ownership, the city’s history is indeed one of connections.
So where do all the beautiful, powerful, smart, successful and connected people of Las Vegas live today? The answer is still inextricably linked to the city’s history: primarily in the award-winning master-planned community of Summerlin®, developed by none other than The Howard Hughes Corporation®, the company named for the man whose imprint on the city is even more evident today than it was decades ago.
Entrepreneur Sarah Camarota, a partner in three restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, an independent hospitality consultant and mother of two young boys, is one of Las Vegas’ leading foodie influencers living and working in Summerlin.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d be raising my family and building my career in Las Vegas,” said Camarota. “When we came here, it was for a ‘two-year adventure,’ but the quality of life we found in Summerlin is just unparalleled. This is home.”
Almost a decade ago, she and husband, Richard, were newlyweds living in downtown Chicago, both with dynamic careers in the restaurant business. Sarah had just landed her dream job working as executive director of experience design for Levy Restaurants, a Chicago-based sports and entertainment hospitality firm. Richard had been working with James Beard Award winner Shawn McClain and was offered the position of Executive Chef at Sage, a fine dining restaurant at Aria Resort & Casino. The couple decided to take a leap of faith and moved to Las Vegas in 2009. Their first baby, James, was born just a few weeks after Aria opened.
Camarota, who was passionate about her career, continued to work remotely for Levy as a new mom in what she describes as “the polar opposite of my former life” as a city girl in Chicago. “It was 2009. The economy had collapsed before our eyes. Las Vegas was ground zero for the recession. I was a new work-from-home mom, and I knew no one. I guess you could call it character-building,” she said.
Fortunately, the couple landed their first home in Summerlin. “I found my places and my people; being in this area really grounded me during that period in our lives.” And just as she considered a new role which could have brought them back to Chicago, the “opportunity of a lifetime" came about.
“Shawn and Richard called late one night from the restaurant to share that Aria was looking for a pizza concept. I said, ‘ok…so what?’ They asked for my help developing and pitching a concept. Given that we were known for fine dining, pizza was a stretch, but we thought…why not, let’s give it our best shot.”
The rest, as they say, is history. What the couple and their long-time partner created and launched in partnership with MGM Resorts is one of the most successful and celebrated pizza spots on the Strip, Five50 Pizza Bar, which opened in July 2013. The couple’s second son, Evan, was born just two weeks later. “Suddenly, we were a family of four, with stakes in two restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip. That pretty much sealed our fate. We were here for good.”
Camarota still marvels at the process of working with MGM, McClain and husband, Richard, on the concept. “For me, there is no greater creative thrill than being part of designing and opening a restaurant in Las Vegas. I like to say, it’s the Olympics of hospitality. There are no limits on what’s possible. It’s just, ‘is it cool enough? Is it compelling enough?’
Meanwhile, Camarota thrived in her role with Levy Restaurants, focusing on the company’s west coast venues. She played an integral role in the experiential development of F&B at T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, bringing in world-renowned mixologist, Tony Abou-Ganim, to develop an industry-leading “mixology for the masses” program that has resulted in record-breaking sales at the venue. As T-Mobile Arena was taking off, Camarota and her family moved into their second home in Summerlin, this one in a cozy cul-de-sac in the popular Paseos village, just up the street from Downtown Summerlin. A self-described fitness nut, Camarota loves the area’s many fitness offerings, including TruFusion and Lifetime Athletic.
Then came Libertine Social, a next-generation gastro pub at Mandalay Bay, which was developed and launched again with husband Richard; the couple’s partner Shawn McClain; and Las Vegas-based cocktail genius, Abou-Ganim, who also lives in Summerlin.
In 2017, The Howard Hughes Corporation acquired full ownership of the city’s Triple-A baseball team, the Las Vegas 51s, and announced plans to develop a state-of-the art ballpark in the Downtown Summerlin area. Camarota was chomping at the bit to get involved.
“In any capacity, I wanted to contribute to how this would come to life. Las Vegas as a market, and Summerlin in particular, are unique and cannot be compared to other Triple-A cities,” said Camarota. “People travel from around the world to experience the Las Vegas Strip, but for those who live here, it’s the playground in our backyard. The expectation for a fan experience is exponentially higher than just about anywhere else on the planet! Plus, my son, Evan, plays in Summerlin South Little League, so not only was I professionally motivated, I have a personal stake in how this comes to life because our family and friends will be spending a lot of time at the new ballpark!”
Camarota feels strongly that creating vibrant food and drink experiences is mission critical, a vision shared by The Howard Hughes Corporation. So, in early 2018, she was brought on board as Hospitality Experience Curator for the new Las Vegas Ballpark.
Camarota has been working to differentiate Las Vegas Ballpark and its signature “food story” ever since. “We’re determined to make the hospitality experience at Las Vegas Ballpark truly special for fans. This is about more than just a baseball game, or who wins and loses. It’s about bonding with our kids, having fun with our friends, making memories that last a lifetime. And while beer and hot dogs will be “best in class” at the new Las Vegas Ballpark, we’re also going to cover the bases for our fans and make sure we’re on-trend with current taste and culture.”
Chilled rosé at a ballgame? Seems like it’s right out of Camarota’s playbook.
Spanning 22,500 acres along the western edge of the Las Vegas valley and framed by Red Rock Canyon National Conservation, the region’s most stunning natural landmark, Summerlin is credited with making Las Vegas known as a great place to live, not just visit. Now in its 28th year, the community is home to more than 100,000 Southern Nevadans drawn to its superior quality of life. With more than 150 miles of walking trails, 250-plus parks of all sizes, ten golf courses, 25 public, private and charter schools and its own downtown, Summerlin is in a league of its own in Southern Nevada when it comes to amenities.
It’s no wonder the city’s captains of industry, entrepreneurs, celebrities, professionals, influencers and yes, even its foodies - often choose to put down roots in Summerlin, easily considered the best place to live in Las Vegas.