5 Vail Valley restaurants earn recommendations in coveted Michelin Guide
Colorado’s culinary scene has officially joined the ranks of fine dining in New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., and the states of California and Florida by garnering a place in the worldwide Michelin Guide. Tuesday night, at the Mission Ballroom in Denver, Michelin announced that five Vail Valley establishments earned a coveted spot in the Michelin Guide’s Recommended restaurants: Mirabelle, Osaki’s, Splendido at The Chateau, Sweet Basil and Wyld.
Overall, Colorado received 30 Michelin Recommendations. In addition to Vail Valley’s five, two Aspen restaurants, five Boulder establishments and 17 Denver restaurants earned recommendations. This is the first year Michelin has recognized Colorado.
“These prestigious awards signify more than just recognition for our restaurants; they symbolize a significant elevation of Colorado’s status on the global culinary map and the state’s steadfast dedication to sustainability,” said Tim Wolfe, director of the Colorado Tourism Office. “With this momentous event, we’re set to attract travelers and food lovers from around the world, bolstering our economy and cultural influence.”
Brian Ackerman, owner and executive chef at Splendido at The Chateau in Avon, recalls just how big of a deal the Michelin Guide was in culinary school; some of his friends even collected the books.
“It’s an amazing honor, and the credibility is great. They continually check out the restaurants because they have a reputation to uphold. This is the real deal, which is why it’s so secretive. You wouldn’t know when (inspectors) are in your restaurant judging you,” he said, adding that it’s relatively easy to prepare an excellent meal for a special diner or two when you know they’re rating you, but for one out of 100,000 or more of your dishes to stand out and gain a recommendation proves consistency in excellence.
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“The fact we had no prior knowledge of their visit makes it even more special,” said Wyld’s executive chef Jasper Schneider. “This recognition reinforces the exceptional culinary experiences that can thrive even in remote destinations.”
Chefs perceive the recommendation as a testament to all of the dedicated efforts the teams put in, often missing holidays and working late nights to make guests’ experiences spectacular.
“This recognition is a source of immense pride for both myself and the entire team,” Schneider said, adding: “Regardless of the recognition, we always strive to offer guests the finest ingredients and a distinctive dining experience in our mid-mountain location. Currently, our menu at Wyld features an impressive 70% of locally-sourced produce, a testament to our commitment to showcasing the flavors of the region throughout the entire resort.”
Ackerman and Mirabelle owner and executive chef Daniel Joly view the recommendation as a motivation to continue to improve and strive for a Michelin star rating. Only five Colorado restaurants earned a one-star rating: Bosq in Aspen, Beckon, Brutø and The Wolf’s Tailor in Denver and Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder.
“Personally, to me, it motivates us to improve and do better,” Joly said. “Also, I think the Vail Valley and mountain towns can only go up in rating in the Micheline guide, and that makes it exciting next year. We must stay true and cater to our clientele who support our restaurant daily. They are the real award — they’ve kept us in business for the past 33 years at Mirabelle. My wife and I always ask, ‘What we can do to improve this?'”
But, regardless, as Joly points out: “It’s a good day when Michelin says something nice about you, no question. It’s a positive experience for all — it’s always nice to be recognized by the Michelin guide and be on a global level.” Like others, he views it as “a new chapter in restaurant qualification in our state, and we must learn and adapt and stay true to our mission in the community.”
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Michelin originally launched its guide to encourage more motorists to drive to destination restaurants. In 2017, the guide added the Recommended Restaurants category. Michelin chose Colorado as the sixth location in the United States to include, due to its “rich, culinary community rooted in established, notable chefs, along with innovative upstarts,” as well as its technique and craft, according to a press release.
“Our famously anonymous inspectors were wowed by these restaurants’ high-quality, local ingredients, sourced seasonally and sustainably. It’s a very exciting time for the culinary community here, and we feel the momentum growing,” said Gwendal Poullennec, the international director of the Michelin guides.
The Colorado Tourism Office described Michelin’s recognition as celebrating the “diversity, quality and exceptional talent that define the state’s vibrant culinary landscape,” according to its press release.
“Michelin is doing a great job of putting Colorado dining on the map and showcasing exceptional mountain dining experiences,” Schneider said. “We’ve been fortunate to welcome guests from all over the world, including from cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Argentina and so many more who are expecting an exciting and upscale dining experience.”