Jason Harrison and Red Maple Catering can throw a party anywhere — and frequently do
Some chefs work with produce grown in the field; others just go ahead and serve the meal there. Or in a meadow, on a mountaintop, at a home, a cabin — you get the picture. Jason Harrison is that kind of chef.
After a career spent in the kitchens of luxury hotels both near and far, sometimes serving upward of 4,500 for a single event, Harrison opened Red Maple Catering in Vail. Chef Harrison is a talented guy, with the ability to pivot from whimsy to comfort to edgy to classic on a plate, all perfectly executed. But what’s made Red Maple so successful these years — and prompted expansions into both Park City, UT and Dallas, TX — is his quick problem-solving abilities and attention to detail. He can figure out what to do when 2,000 lobsters don’t show up on schedule, or the pristine dining spot has no electricity. Or how to feed a vegan who wasn’t expected at a decidedly non-vegan-friendly meal. (The last challenge was handily dealt with, as the event was at Copper Bar Ranch. Chef Harrison just wandered into the garden, picked a few things, prepared them and voila — dinner was served, for everybody no less.)
A Red Maple event is always perfectly executed. Though they’ve carved out a reputation for being able to bring five-star service anywhere, there is no particular type of party that is more popular than another.
“We do everything from large parties to dinner for two,” Harrison said. “We just did a school fundraiser with 500 guests, and a couple who wanted to redo their wedding menu on their one-year anniversary. We really do it all.”
Though they remain dedicated to being able to adapt to any location, they are also expanding into a couple of dedicated locations. A new event space is being built at Copper Bar Ranch, a working ranch in Edwards, replete with Highland cattle, large gardens and stunning views. Red Maple’s aesthetic dovetails nicely with the ranch’s, and they’ll be the exclusive caterers for the new space.
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“It’s going to be amazing,” Harrison said enthusiastically. “They’ve already got the infrastructure for hosting parties, but they’re adding to it. It’s a working farm and their intent is to keep it as a working farm. But this will add so much more.”
And down the road in Gypsum, the Rod and Gun Club is branching into some more upscale events. For those special times, Red Maple Catering will be there.
“Cooking to me is the greatest creative outlet there is,” he said. “It is both how I can express my creative side, and show my passion for ingredients at the same time.”
So how does he keep it fresh?
“I stay inspired by talking to, working with and reading about food every day,” he says. “Ninety percent of my friends are chefs and some are within the best restaurants and hotels in the world. Keeping up with emerging dining trends is not easy, but with a strong network — and lots of food-focused travel —we keep pushing the boundaries.”
Also, the process itself feeds him.
“I like the challenge,” Harrison said. “I love it when somebody calls and says, ‘I really like this particular dish, but nobody else can do it. Can you?’”
And so far, Red Maple Catering always can.