The man on the other end of the call starts the conversation with, “You’re not going to believe this.”
This should be interesting, because that person is Chip Lightman, who has lived quite a life in the past, oh, 15 years.
That career enveloped two tours of duty with the late Danny Gans, in which he helped mold and stage one of the city’s most reliably popular entertainers. A brief stint with Donny & Marie Osmond ended abruptly with an out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit filed by Lightman after the Osmonds decided that they didn’t require Lightman’s services as producer of their well-attended shows at Flamingo. And, also, his investment in the ticket Web site ShowTickets4Locals, which helps fill venues all across Las Vegas.
What would we not believe here? Then Lightman informs: He has invested in the rolling-restaurant industry. Specifically, he has bought into grilled cheese sandwiches and other cheesy noshes. A few months ago, Lightman invested in a grilled cheese truck dubbed “Muncheeze,” which began lumbering merrily into parking lots in April.
The concept is as simple as a grilled ham and cheese: to follow the success of such food-carting vehicles as the Slidin’ Thru slider truck. Lightman opted for this relatively secure revenue stream to supplant his avid interest in entertainment.
The Strip entertainment scene is still relatively soft, he reasons, especially compared with the more fertile years when he was working with Gans. Lightman’s most recent effort to partner with local rocker/comic/impressionist Brody Dolyniuk fizzled, as did the partnership with Donny & Marie.
Unexpectedly, Lightman came up with the idea of a grilled cheese delivery truck by reading sister publication Las Vegas Weekly.
“I had been reading about all these trucks, and there was a question about what truck readers would like to see that wasn’t already out there,” Lightman said during a recent Muncheeze stop-over in our very own Greenspun Media Group parking lot. “No. 1 was grilled cheese. I said to my wife (Kathy), ‘I want to see about setting this up.’ ”
Lightman employs a sense of humor about the big truck. Painted on the side is a cow that looks, frankly, acutely stoned.
It’s not Lightman’s first foray into the local food industry. He’s still part owner of Coachman Inn Restaurant, a venture he entered years ago with the late Bucky Buchanan. For the Muncheeze rig, Lightman is partnered with Slidin’ Thru owner Ricardo Guerrero. Both trucks were parked at the 49th wedding anniversary party for Oscar and Carolyn Goodman at El Cortez, which gives the mobile eatery some sort of Old Vegas validation.
Muncheeze offers an assortment of traditional grilled cheese sandwiches for $5 and $6, soups and bisques for that price, and little fried knots known as “Mac Bites” for $3 per order.
“It’s amazing how this has blown up,” Lightman said. “Two years ago, there were three of these trucks in Las Vegas. Now there are 19.”
And counting. As Lightman figures, the world of grilled cheese is far more predictable than entertainment.