BEAVER CREEK - Food and wine are an obvious culinary pairing, but food, wine and the mountains have created something of a culinary paradise in Beaver Creek this weekend.Celebrity chefs, local chefs and Food & Wine Magazine celebrated in style Thursday night to kick off Food & Wine Weekend in Beaver Creek for the Meet the Chefs reception. Familiar faces like John Besh, a Louisiana chef, restaurateur and TV personality, and Food & Wine's Gail Simmons, a judge on the Emmy-winning Bravo TV show Top Chef, rubbed elbows with local celebrity chefs like David Walford of Splendido and Daniel Joly of Mirabelle. They ate, they drank, but mostly, they smiled."Food and wine are the common threads that bring us all together," Besh said. "Come to the mountains and you're automatically in a great mood. ... So, you're in a great mood, you come in, you're here to have fun, then you throw in great chefs who are also passionate about skiing and you pair it all together- it's just the makings of a perfect weekend."This perfect weekend includes interactive cooking demonstrations, apres parties, and active lunches in which guests ski or snowshoe to work up their appetites. Food & Wine Publisher Christina Grdovic said what guests do at these events outside of the eating and drinking is just as important as the eating and drinking."When we do these food and wine events, we like to do it in a really beautiful place, so obviously this place is gorgeous," Grdovic said. "We like to make sure there's always something extra (to do) - at Food & Wine we call it the 'and factor.'"
Grdovic is noticing an emerging trend among those who appreciate good food and wine - they also want to stay healthy. "So we love the idea of 'work hard, play hard, eat well, stay fit,'" Grdovic said. It's something Simmons, originally from Toronto, certainly loves. She said she's been skiing since she was 4 years old, mostly in eastern Canada. She said to get out of New York City, her current home, for a weekend in the Rockies is truly bliss."Waking up every morning and looking at these mountains just makes me so, so happy," Simmons said. "Beautiful settings and great meals go so well together and I also think that things like skiing, working up an appetite ... at Food & Wine we always say we work hard and we play hard, and that's exactly what we're here to do. We're going to do a lot of great cooking, a lot of great skiing, and then we're all going to sit down and have some really great meals."The great meals started out right away. At the Meet the Chefs reception, hosts and guests dined on small bites like shrimp ceviche, bass sashimi, lamb stew and foie gras Twinkies before many went down to Mirabelle for a more formal, sit-down dinner prepared by Joly.It was the first of many scenarios this weekend in which local chefs would graciously welcome the out-of-towners and heavy hitters from the food world. Chefs Jay McCarthy of the Beaver Creek Chophouse and Group 970, and Christian Apetz of the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek sipped on some Stella Artois together and watched the familiar faces spread throughout the room. They cracked a few jokes about the "low-landers," but mostly they humbly expressed gratitude for such a star-power-filled culinary event choosing Beaver Creek as its home."It's exciting to have all these guys, and truth be told they're more excited than we are," Apetz said. "This is our home and we're welcoming them into our home."McCarthy said he hoped the weekend would accomplish more than just great food - he wants every person who traveled here for the event to feel welcomed. He laughed about a scenario earlier in the morning in which a New York City chef wouldn't leave a box on the loading dock because he feared someone would steal it. "I'm like, 'Where are you from, dude?'" McCarthy laughed. "It's a whole different world. We want them to have as much fun as possible - we want to show them Beaver Creek hospitality, Vail Valley hospitality."Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.