Beaver Creek chef cooks for 3,000 Cornell students
David Gutowski went back to college, and like most of us he had a great time.
Gutowski is executive chef at Grouse Mountain Grill. He and Joey Woodwell recently cooked some of their specialties for thousands of Cornell University students in Ithaca, New York.
Once a year, Cornell runs its Cross Country Gourmet Restaurant program. An acclaimed chef comes to the college to prepare food for students and staff on two consecutive evenings.
This year it was Grouse Mountain Grill’s Executive Chef David Gutowski to serve 3,000 college students.
“What kinds of challenges were there? All of them,” Gutowski said.
It’s a great big exercise in trust, Gutowski said.
“I had to trust all the other cooks,” he said. “At the restaurant I can be involved in everything we make. But with this many people you have to hand it over and trust them.”
Gutowski says he spent most of his time “running around from station to station making sure everything is right.
“It’s about organization. For them it’s business as usual. Their chef, Steven Miller, has done this a million times. But for us it’s not,” Gutowski said.
On a big night at Grouse Mountain Grill, they serve 250 people, Gutowski said.
Students got to try the restaurants’s legendary pretzel encrusted pork chops. “It’s been on the menu forever,” Gutowski said.
There was the pan-seared Colorado striped bass, Colorado lamb ragu with fresh fava beans and rigatoni pasta, duck confit stir fry, fingerling potatoes poached in duck fat.
Exactly the fare you enjoyed in your college cafeteria.
It’s a huge operation and everything takes more time because there’s so much of it. The time it takes to clean 200 pounds of striped bass is daunting, to say the least.
Grouse Mountain Grill’s Nancy Dowell made the trip to Ithaca.
“I ran into people at Cornell who’d been skiing in Vail and had been to the Grouse Mountain Grill,” she said. “It really is a small world.”
Just like when she’s at home, she spent some walking around asking people how everything is, just like a restaurant dining room.
No matter how many posters you put up announcing the event, people still walk in not knowing what’s going on, Dowell said.
“You should have seen their faces,” Dowell said. “They were taking pictures and texting them to their friends, telling them to get over there.”
They started getting ready last fall and kicked into high gear during the high season, Gutowski said. During the winter high season, they had to come up with the menu and send it to Cornell. They made everything translate from 20 people to 3,000 people.
“It’s all about organization. We just brought our knives,” Gutowski said.
Cornell University is half public and half private, about 20,000 students. It’s a fascinating hybrid of Ivy League and blue collar, Dowell said.
“They produce some of their own food and partner with local farmers. It’s a pretty progressive school,” Dowell said.
Gutowski said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the diners, maybe some Ivy League brats, but they could not have been nicer, he said.
“They really appreciated having something nice,” he said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.