When multiple chefs participate in a collaborative dinner together, it's the diners - and their tastebuds - who win. Generally a fairly competitive lot, most of the chefs I know would undoubtably want to create the most beloved dish of the evening.
That's likely what will happen at tonight's Chaine des Rotisseurs "Summertime in Piemonte" dinner, a fundraiser for Colorado Mountain College's Culinary Institute. The famed Chaine is an international gastronomic society, and the organization's dinners apparently have quite a reputation. Last week as I rode the in-town Vail bus to a Vail International Dance Festival event, I listened as a woman talked to her friend about tonight's dinner. Her voice turned into a conspiratorial whisper as she finished with: "And the best part is, it's open to the public!"
Indeed, most Chaine events are only open to members, but tonight's dinner at Splendido in Beaver Creek is open to anyone willing to shell out nearly $200 for a six-course meal paired with Piemontese wines supplied by Giulliana Imports, Dolce e Dani Wine Imports and Veraison.
With an all-star lineup of some of the valley's best chefs, the menu will make your stomach growl - even if you just ate lunch. Spledido Chef David Walford is making sea-scallop crudo with fennel, tomato and olive oil to start. Chef Steve Topple, of the Sonnenalp, is making Mediterranean mackerel poached in olive oil with crispy salami, cipolini onions and lemon-herb vinaigrette. Justin Hugill, of QUINNtessential, a catering company in Denver and the coordinator for the Denver and Vail chapters of the Chaine, will serve slow-roasted veal sauce with Tajarin pasta, garnished with shaved parmesan and fried sage leaves. And that's not even a third of the menu.
"The theme, 'Summertime in Piemonte,' celebrates the fresh, simple but bold cuisine of the northwest region of Italy," said Suzanne Hoffman, president of the Vail chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs. "Piemonte is best known for its nebbiolo grape varietal that gives us the royalty of wines, Barolo and Barberesco, and white truffles," though, as Hoffman said, it's "a little early for (truffles)."
In 2010, the Southwest Region of the Chaine des Rotisseurs held its conference in Vail. The epicurean pinnacle of the three-day meeting was a chefs' collaborative dinner at the Game Creek Club. Six local chefs came together with CMC culinary students to collaborate on a fundraising dinner in honor of legendary French chef Fernand Point. The Chaine donated $13,500 to CMC's Culinary Institute, used for scholarships for culinary students.
Fast forward to 2013. Walford, an officer of the Vail chapter, made an offhand remark to Hoffman about how fun it would be to do another collaborative dinner.
"With many top chefs in the community counted in Vail bailliage's membership, it seemed a great time add to the CMC scholarship fund," Hoffman said.
"This is a rare event. Chaine events are only open to members and a limited number of guests."