Braised leg of lamb beats out Chaps lamb sliders at Taste of Vail |

Braised leg of lamb beats out Chaps lamb sliders at Taste of Vail

Daily Staff ReportVail CO, Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyZacca Za sous chefs Canyon Jacob, left, and Christopher Ardelean, right, work as fast as they can to prepare their American Lamb Bistecca Piccolo as a hungry crowd waits to taste it Wednesday during the Lamb Cook Off in Vail Village.

VAIL Game Creek Restaurants Chef Darrell Jensen took top honors Wednesday at the third annual Colorado Lamb Cook-Off, kicking off the 17th annual Taste of Vail wine and food festival.Vying for the title of lamb guru, Jensen joined chefs from 16 other restaurants throughout the Vail Valley, serving up samples of the tastiest lamb they could muster. New at Game Creek Restaurant this year, Jensen took first place with his braised leg of lamb. The competition was judged on presentation, creativity and taste.

Second place went to Chef Richard Beicher of Chaps Grill & Chophouse for his lamb slider on brioche roll with micro mint and ginger tomato chutney. Third place went to Thomas Newsted, executive chef of Zacca Za, for his Colorado lamb bistecca piccolo. Newsted was executive chef at Game Creek Restaurant when he won the event the past two years before moving to Zacca Za.Im very excited and proud of my crew, Jensen said upon learning he had won. A chefs really only as good as the people who work for him.Curtis Lincoln, executive chef at the Brown Palace in Denver and one of the judges, said Jensens braised leg of lamb was creative.The gnocci was very light; the butternut cone was clean and crisp; the herb salad had a very refreshing finish, Lincoln said.The other judges were Jorge de la Torre of Johnson and Wales University; Chef Nick Agro, owner of Whirled Peas; Peter Orwick, president of the American Sheep Industry Association; Megan Wortman, marketing director of the American Lamb Board; Scott Dodd, executive chef at Mid-Vail; and Randy Wyrick, editor of the Vail Trail.For $2 each, samples of the chefs lamb offerings, along with lamb-friendly tasting pours of fine wines, were on sale to ticket buyers, who cast votes for their favorite dish. Organizers will present the resulting Peoples Choice at the Taste of Vail grand finale, the Grand Tasting, on Saturday.Fantastic chefs with unique, outstanding presentations, said Megan Wortman, spokeswoman for the Denver-based American Lamb Board, which donated 800 pounds of locally grown leg of lamb to the event this year. Theres no better way to promote the versatility and great flavor of American lamb.For more information on Colorado lamb, including recipes, tips for preparing various cuts, a nutritional guide, suggestions for wine pairing and more, visit

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