Whole30 creator and Larkspur chef collaborate for special dinner during GoPro Mountain Games | VailDaily.com

Whole30 creator and Larkspur chef collaborate for special dinner during GoPro Mountain Games

Katie Coakley
Special to the Weekly

there's always something new at the GoPro Mountain Games. This year, one of the highlights is a special dinner with Whole30 co-founder and CEO Melissa Hartwig, created by Larkspur's Thomas Salamunovich, on Thursday, June 7. Following the guidelines of the Whole30 program, the event will feature a mocktail hour meet-and-greet followed by a four-course Whole30-approved dinner and an interactive dessert station.

The challenge? "Whole30 approved" means a menu without dairy, grains, legumes, added sugar or alcohol.

But it's a challenge that Salamunovich and his team eagerly accepted. For the Vail chef, though, the parameters are not so strict. Instead, it's a chance for him to think outside the box, to create dishes that honor the original, but are a new take on classics. Each ingredient is prepared in a way that showcases its essential flavors. In the case of the main course, he's also utilizing almost every aspect of the duck.

"This, the Whole30, has given me extreme freedom," Salamunovich said. "It feels pure and responsible and liberating. Eating this way is the way humans ate until the mass production of food. We're bringing it back in an elegant manner."

The first of its kind at the GoPro Mountain Games, the Whole30 dinner is a new way for Whole30 devotees to connect with like-minded people as well as a way to share the program with a new audience. Hartwig has hosted a few dinners on book tours, but nothing like this immersive event, she said.

"I am so incredibly impressed with the level of dedication he (Salamunovich) has given to crafting this menu in the spirit and intention of the Whole30," Hartwig said. "He's doing one now, to have a better understanding. It's certainly not a prerequisite to cooking a Whole30 meal, but he wanted to have the experience to learn what it's like to actually do the program so that he could craft a dinner that really honors the spirit of the program and the community. I have been blown away by how much thought and preparation he has put into this."

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30-day reset

For me, it's not only a chance to see Salamunovich's creativity in action (and hopefully get some ideas), but it's also a bit of a fan-girl moment. I had heard of the Whole30 for almost a year before I decided to give it a shot (the idea of giving up cheese seemed way too daunting for a long time). But on the day after Thanksgiving last year, my mom and I embarked on our first Whole30 journey.

Whole30 is a not a diet but a 30-day reset. By cutting out these food groups, the idea is that participants can improve their health, create new dietary habits and change their emotional relationship with food. Many people call it "life changing." Though I hesitate to use that sort of almost sensational language, I won't lie — it did change my life.

It was definitely tough, especially over the holidays when sweet treats and alcohol is almost de rigueur. But the program taught me to pour over labels, where I discovered that sugar is added to many things you wouldn't expect, such as chicken stock. It also taught me to cook: I scoured the internet and Instagram for recipes and subjected my mom to all kinds of crazy, albeit tasty, concoctions.

Cutting out food groups and slowly reintroducing them made me realize that bread is not a friend to my stomach and that I can, truly, say no to cheese. But it also helped me to slow down and ask myself what I really want when I'm eating. I'm in the midst of another Whole30 right now and, though there might be stumbles along the way, I like how I feel.

'Whole30 Compliant'

The Whole30 dinner will be served in an elevated family-style way, Salamunovich explained, and the dinner will be emceed by Salamunovich and Hartwig. An opportunity for questions for both hosts will occur after dinner. Hartwig will also stay in Vail for the weekend, meeting fans and just enjoying the Mountain Games.

But the dinner will be a highlight.

"What an incredible experience for attendees," Hartwig said. "You are not missing any aspect of this family-style, five-course gourmet meal. It just happens to be Whole30 compliant."

If you go …

What: Whole30 Dinner Experience with Melissa Hartwig.

When: Thursday, June 7, 6 p.m.

Where: Larkspur Restaurant, Vail.

More information: Tickets for the Whole30 Dinner Experience are priced at $150 per person and can be purchased at register.mountaingames.com. Space is limited. For more information on the event, visit mountaingames.com/events/whole30-dinner-experience.

Sneak peek of the evening’s menu:

To begin: Braised baby artichokes and aromatics, Nicoise olive crumbs

First course: Chilled eastern seaboard and West Coast shellfish, early summer vegetable crudite paired with clarified citrus tonic

Second course: Seared grass-fed beef carpaccio, celery root crisps, shaved black summer truffles, preserved white winter truffle aioli paired with bone marrow and wild mushroom herbal tea

Third course: Pasture-raised and organic egg and almond flan, Maris Piper potato broth, sturgeon and trout caviars

Fourth course: Four preparations of Liberty Duck with their accompaniments; cured, confit, broth, brick oven roasted

Fifth course: An interactive assortment of savory desserts, “no sugar added”