Beano’s Cabin introduces Exec. Chef Steven Topple
BEAVER CREEK Steven Topple is not a composer, but if he was, Thursday night would mark his debut at Carnegie Hall. Instead, as the executive chef at Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, Topple makes his symphonies with food and flavors, and on Thursday, he will prepare a five-course dinner at the James Beard House in New York – undoubtedly the culinary equivalent of Carnegie Hall for chefs, cookbook authors and winemakers.
“It’s every chef’s dream,” Topple said last week during heavy preparations for the dinner. “It’s an honor for any chef to cook there. It’s like you’ve finally made it.”James Beard was America’s first celebrity chef. Long before the coining of the word “foodie,” he appeared in television’s first cooking show on NBC in 1946, and demystified gourmet cooking for all Americans.
Before that in 1940, he wrote the first major cookbook on cocktail food, “Hors D’oeuvre and Canapes,” and continued to write cookbook after cookbook for 40 more years. In 1955, Beard started his own cooking school in New York and in Oregon, from where he hails.In 1986, a year after Beard died, the James Beard Foundation was founded to preserve what “The Godfather of American Cuisine” loved so much – America’s culinary heritage. The foundation transformed Beard’s townhouse on 12th Street in Greenwich Village into a restaurant, and about 250 days of the year, chefs from all over the country and world go there to showcase the “best of their best,” Susan Ungaro, the foundation’s president, said.
“We invite chefs who are getting great reviews or making a name for themselves in the cities and towns where they perform their craft,” Ungaro said. “It means the chef has earned acclaim for the inventiveness and excellence for their menu and restaurant.”Beard made cooking with fresh, regional fare popular, Ungaro said, and when choosing a chef to host a dinner, they look for someone who shares the same standards and ideals.On Thursday, Topple and his executive sous chef, Michael Tolosa, will cook The Great Rocky Mountain Pinot Noir Dinner, five courses emphasizing Colorado cuisine paired with five different pinot noirs from Capiaux Cellars in California.On the menu includes Topple’s signature pecan crusted elk loin and slow braised Colorado buffalo short ribs. Diners at James Beard will also taste Colorado roasted beet salad and a pear tarte tatin, made with Palisade pears and served with a homemade mountain huckleberry ice cream.”I really try to show off Rocky Mountain cuisine,” Topple said. “I want to bring it back to a status of where it should be, because we have such beautiful products.”Cooking with local ingredients is nothing new for Topple. At Beano’s, he regularly sources produce from Palisade farmers (organic when he can find it) and buys natural meat in-state or regionally. But cooking with Colorado ingredients in New York is a whole different story.Planning for the James Beard dinner has been a bit of a logistical challenge for Topple. He will prep all the meat at Beano’s and then Fed Ex it. He will pack all the produce on the plane with him, and the scallops, for the second course, are flying to New York direct from Boston.”I hope and pray everything comes together at once,” Topple said. “If not, I’ll be shopping pretty actively in New York.”Because the James Beard House has such a small kitchen, Topple will prepare 50 percent of the dinner at Landmarc’s kitchen, a bistro in New York. Topple met Landmarc’s owner Marc Murphy at a culinary event in Beaver Creek. Topple will have to hail at least two cabs to transport the prepped dinner from Landmarc to James Beard, where he’ll finish everything off.Topple said he will be a little bit nervous the night before: After all, he’s cooking for 75 of his most discerning peers. (James Beard members, Ungaro said, include chefs, authors, journalists and discerning foodies.)But for inspiration, on Wednesday night Topple and his sous chef Tolosa will dine at Gordon Ramsay at The London in New York. Ramsay, known for his reality TV cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen,” is a hero of Topple’s, who he first discovered when living in England.”He’s the guy I look up to. He’s got great attention to detail,” Topple said. “So we’re going to eat there to see how it’s done.”But Topple is well on his way to becoming one of the big boys himself. Cooking a James Beard dinner proves that. And next on his list?”To get a James Beard Award,” Topple said. “That’s even more prestigious.”