Vail Valley Scenery column: Local gourmet organization helps sponsor new chefs and sommeliers
September 9, 2016
Chaine des Rotisseurs isn't a name you've probably heard of. But if you're a serious foodie, as in seriously fine dining, excellent wines and meeting new friends, then you might want to brush up on your French.
Recently, the Vail Chapter, known as a "bailliage" in the organization, held its annual induction dinner at Vintage restaurant. That's the evening when new members, known as a Dame de la Chaine or a Chevalier, are officially brought into the organization, bedecked with "decorations," which are colored ribbon with chains and a medallion.
The Chaine des Rotisseurs has its origins dating all the way back to 1248 and King Louis IX. He established several professional guilds, and one was the guild of goose roasters. Yes, it was a fine profession back in King Louis' day. Eventually, the guild expanded to include not simply goose roasters, but also the lowly poultry roasters and other meats, including game.
For more than four centuries, the La Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs cultivated and developed the culinary arts in France. The roasters, along with those who baked cakes, apparently disappeared during the French Revolution.
In 1950, the organization was resurrected by a handful of gastronomes in France, including gourmands, chefs and journalists, and in 1960, the United States joined the party. The organization is a nonprofit with the goal and purpose of providing scholarships to deserving culinary and oenological (wine) students. Currently, there are around 6,000 national members and 130 bailliages of the Chaine in the United States. Worldwide, Chaine is represented in 80 countries with more than 25,000 members.
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The Vail Chapter has been around since 1991 and has been headed up since by a string of Baillis — pronounced "by-yee" — who manage the chapter. Jim Kugeler started the organization, and since then, Jim Frein, Jeri Campisi and Suzanne Hoffman have led the organization.
The induction featured an especially creative dinner created by executive chef Remington Fleming, of Vintage. He ventured to the French colonies and served five imaginative and delectable courses, beginning with a citrus-poached Spanish day boat octopus, nuac cham, do chua, watermelon radish, togarashi, rau ram and finishing with Matcha green tea financier, white chocolate ganache, strawberry caviar and olive oil crumble. A perfectly paired wine, selected by sommelier John Thompson, accompanied each course.
"The idea for the French colony theme was something I recommended last winter while we were considering what to do for a late-night menu. Unfortunately, the colony theme was not the route we decided to go, but the idea kept lingering in the back of my mind," Fleming said. "When I was presented the opportunity to do Chaine dinner, I jumped at the chance to explore this idea further.
"The theme provided an escape from 'traditional' French cooking and allowed my staff and I to research and explore different flavors, techniques and ingredients. I was apprehensive at first, considering this was my first private dinner as executive chef, but the reception to not only the food but the wine and Vintage, as well, was certainly encouraging. It was a great experience for the staff, as well as myself."
Recognition of service
Hoffman was recognized for her 10 years of service to the Vail Chapter.
"The organization provides a gastronomic link to bring people in this seasonal community together, where we can dine with a purpose and help promote our young culinary professionals," she said.
"It's the union of food and wine in an experiential setting, one of mankind's oldest rituals. What better way to meet people, experience different flavors and dine with a purpose by helping support local culinary professionals whose skills are put to the test to create theme menus often way out of their comfort zones?"
Carolyn Pope has covered community service events and nonprofit activities since 2001 and co-authored "The Women of Vail." She can be reached at 970-390-9913.
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