Can it truly be said that once a sinner will always be one? It has been known to happen that, following a long-running identification with being bad, the person or society in question might just experience an unexpected but nonetheless welcome rebirth. New beginnings have always been a driving force of evolution dating back to the dawn of animal and human civilization, and modern society is not exempt from this. Even the epicenter of sin in the United States, Las Vegas, seems to have begun undergoing a recent metamorphosis. Long-revered for openly harnessing any and all behaviour that could be considered indulgent, bad, or dangerous, the Nevada capital has recently begun shedding some of its carnivorous skin, and doing so one restaurant at a time.
Known for hosting some of the world’s best musical talent, from Frank Sinatra, to Cirque du Soleil, to Celine Dion, its restauranting was never far behind, as top chefs helped shape the culinary highlights in flamingo city. But recently, as the North American demand for nutritious meat-free dishes has skyrocketed, mega-developer Steve Wynn decided to take a risk at his luxurious Wynn and Encore hotels and bring in vegan chef extraordinaire Tal Ronnen, also of LYFE Kitchen, and additional guidance from the inimitable Ellen DeGeneres to help develop in-depth vegan and vegetarian menus for guests whose extent of sinning stops at gambling, with no interest in the beef, chicken, and seafood fare that helped shape Las Vegas’ legacy of gourmet restauranting. Quite fittingly, Wynn’s restaurant at the Encore is named for Sinatra, a man who did things his way and set many trends while he was at it.
Have the flamingos gone vegan too? We’re not sure, and the likelihood of that happening probably depends on just how devoutly anti-meat the zookeepers become in the years ahead. But the paradigm has already begun to shift. MSNBC recently covered Vegas’ first high-profile vegan initiative, situating this impressive evolution in the Vegas experience within the context of Americans’ growing demand for meatless dishes. The Triple George Grill, a staple in traditional eating, has begun offering vegan dishes to meet growing demand as well. And for burger lovers looking to dodge the beef, webzines like Vegetarian in Vegas have reported on the best meat-free burgers around town.
Ever the notorious hotspot for high-profile conventions, 2011 marked a new twist on Vegas’ reputation for stimulating men’s senses with reputed publication VegNews organizing the inaugural Vegans in Vegas – Bachelor Party 2011, described as “The first event designed for vegan and veg-interested men…featuring presentations from experts in the fields of health, nutrition, fitness, environmentalism, and activism.” Seeing as the city has been in the process of reformatting its traditionally hedonistic experience into a more family-oriented one to maintain its appeal in the modern era, the offering of such an event comes as less of a surprise in 2011 as it may have been in, say, 1975. As gender roles have shifted in recent decades, more men have developed interests in both self and environmental preservation; concerns formerly associated with the female sex almost exclusively.
Whether Las Vegas is actually being born again as a health-oriented and ethically-conscious landmark, or simply responding to the changes in people’s eating habits to stay economically viable in a rapidly-changing cultural landscape, it’s doubtful the animals are complaining much. Spouses and partners, however, might have their take on the matter; plant-based dishes tend to process easier in the system, leaving more energy to sin the nights away. Vegan or not, it appears the more things seem to change in Vegas, the more they actually stay the same.