Meet Your Chef: Pierson Shields is serving up creatively consistent offerings at Grand Hyatt Vail
Whether ordering to-go or dining in, local chefs are working hard to keep people fed safely this season
Editor’s note: To answer the Vail Daily’s Meet Your Chef questionnaire, email Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Pierson Shields is the executive chef at Grand Hyatt Vail, home of Gessner restaurant and the new Gore Creek Kitchen food truck.
The smoke alarm was a regular sound in his family’s kitchen growing up, so he took it upon himself to learn to cook early on. He knows the time spent around a table conversing with friends and family is priceless, especially when the food adds to the experience such as his offerings at Grand Hyatt Vail.
He strives for “creativity” and “consistency” at the Grand Hyatt Vail, inviting diners to return time and time again for one of the classics, or to try something new.
1. How long have you lived in the valley and what brought you here?
This is my second stint in the valley. I was previously in Avon in 2008, and I am stoked to be back. My new role brought me back as I have been waiting for the right opportunity to return. What better opportunity than joining the recently renovated Grand Hyatt Vail at Chair 20 in the heart of Cascade Village?
2. Where did your passion for cooking come from?
Well, even though my mom would routinely set off the smoke alarm when she was in the kitchen, I grew up knowing that friends and family gathering around a table sharing meals and good conversation was the best way to live. I grew tired of that smoke alarm, so I learned how to cook!
3. What do you enjoy about being a chef in the Vail Valley?
I love that there are so many talented chefs in such a tight-knit community. The friendly competition will drive further creativity and professional development and, most importantly, friendship.
4. What’s one thing you are proud of that people might not know?
I started my first business when I was 16 and learned that a passion for hard work can get you on the fast track if you show respect and empathy.
5. Skier or snowboarder (or neither)? How often do you get out and where do you go. Also, what are your favorite summer activities?
Both, but it has been a while since I’ve been on the mountain. I always love Vail after the holidays because it feels like you own the mountain. In the summertime, I am camping and hiking with my wonderful wife Sarah and our two dogs Cynder and Woodford.
6. What do you like to eat?
We try to live a healthy lifestyle and eat clean, but on a cheat day, I have been really focusing on BBQ and mastering my smoker.
7. How does Vail Valley dining compare to other places you’ve worked?
Vail Valley has many diverse restaurants, so there is something for everyone. By the time we left Lake Tahoe, the restaurant scene there was becoming diverse and creative, so I think it mostly reminds me of that.
8. Who has helped you along the way/what inspires you?
So many people have pushed me over the years, but mostly if I had to list the top people, it would be my dad on how to manage finances; my mom for compassion and empathy; my wife, Sarah, who breaks every glass ceiling that someone puts in her way; and Rich O’ Brian at Elevation Food Reps on how to be the top dog and stay there. Lastly, past chefs who have challenged me to overcome any obstacle.
9. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
Something outdoors, possibly in the forestry service. I love our national parks and forests, and I could see myself being a part of a team that protects wildlife and helps grow that cause.
10. What can diners expect from a meal at your restaurant?
Creativity and consistency. I want people to know that they can become repeat diners at Gessner, with their friends and family, and be assured of the same quality and experience. Diners can also expect to have a fun meal when enjoying our new food truck, Gore Creek Kitchen.
Anything else we should have asked, anything else you’d like to share?
This has been such a hard year for the people in our industry, but out of the hardship comes innovation. Check me out on Instagram @be_prepared_denver to see some of the fun projects and ideas we are always working on like most recently our take home meal kits that feature fun menus from homestyle Mexican to backyard BBQ. Come say hello when you are in West Vail near Grand Hyatt Vail. I love meeting new people and actively supporting the local communities and activities!