Beaver Creek chef’s cookbook a culinary triumph
If you’re Beano’s chef Steven Topple, life is so good that the mountains around Vail look like giant dessert cakes covered with powdered sugar.
Topple says so in his new cookbook, “Signatures,” an elegant and creative collection of his favorite recipes perfected over almost a decade as a chef in Vail.
“I think the elegance comes along with creativity, with taking familiar and traditional and adding my own personal twist,” Topple said.
Topple has been at Beano’s for five years. Before that it was with The Lodge at Vail’s Wildflower for three years.
“It’s not like giving away state secrets. People always ask me for recipes. I just wanted to make it easy for them,” Topple said.
So here, finally, they are.
The route the book took to the valley was almost as circuitous as his own.
Topple hired an Asian company to print the books. Because four restaurants and chefs were supposed to be part of the package, they got a screaming deal on the printing. But like most deals, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
One of the restaurants pulled out in the middle of production and the other three were stuck.
Mirabelle owner and chef Daniel Joly’s books were printed and being held hostage on an Asian loading dock. Joly’s finally arrived a couple months ago.
Topple’s book had not yet been printed. He hired a lawyer who browbeat the Asian publisher into releasing the material. Topple got the money back he’d invested in the venture and went shopping for a more local company.
The folks at the Bookworm knew someone who knew someone, and before you could say “Lamb wellington with garlic mashed potatoes and mint sauce,” he took everything for the book to Pioneer Press in Greeley.
Four weeks later they delivered his book.
It’s a good looking book, well designed with easy-to-follow recipes. There’s a difficulty rating on each recipe, rating it from 1-5.
“I’m really happy with it,” Topple said.
Topple started through Highbury College culinary school in England at age 16. Of his class of 20, eight graduated.
“Have you ever watched that show ‘Hell’s Kitchen’?” Topple asked. “It had that feel to it.”
College was an exercise in extremes. He got up at the crack of dawn, studied, worked at a high-end bistro and pulled some shifts at McDonald’s.
“Don’t laugh. I’m not embarrassed about it,” Topple says. “In fact, I learned a lot of incredible things at McDonald’s in terms of food hygiene, rotation of product and other restaurant basics.”
Working two jobs and going to school got him used to working long, long hours and at breakneck speed without sacrificing quality.
On a big night at Beano’s, more than 350 people dine.
He wanted to be a pilot originally, but a limited form of color blindness kept his feet planted firmly on the ground. He decided that as long as he was to be connected to terra firma, he might as well eat well.
You might as well, too.
He got his first real job by brazening his way into Brian Turner’s kitchen for his first job. Turner is a television chef in Great Britain. Topple found him in one of his restaurants and, knives in hand, asked him if he was hiring. Turns out he was and Topple started the next day.
He landed in the U.S. and Canada, traveling and working and learning. The Lodge at Vail’s Wildflower called in 1999, the same time as The Little Nell in Aspen. He chose Vail, and Vail chose him right back.
He’s 33 years old and has been the executive chef at Beano’s for five years.
“Every day it feels like something new is happening for me. I’m glad I made it,” Topple said.
“Here is a dish that is packed full of flavor and so simple to make. Everyone loves chicken cordon bleu, and they’ll adore this version,” Topple says.
2 6-ounce boneless skinless natural chicken breasts
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 slices prosciutto ham, 1/8 inch thick
2 slices smoked gouda cheese
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Use a wooden mallet to flatten the chicken breasts to about 1/4 inch thick. Lay the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap when you pound it to keep things neat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
Place a slice of prosciutto ham and a slice of gouda cheese on each chicken piece and roll up like a pinwheel. Secure with a toothpick or trussing needle, or tie it with kitchen string.
In a bowl, beat the eggs and water together. Place the flour on a plate. Place the bread crumbs on a separate plate. Dip the chicken pinwheels in the flour and then in the egg wash, allowing any excess liquid to run off. Finish by dredging the chicken through the bread crumbs to coat well.
Pour the butter into a baking dish and place the chicken on top of it in a single layer. Bake in the 350-degree oven until the inside temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.
Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and tomato coulis.