Challenge the skills of Beaver Creek Mountain Dining
August 25, 2012
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series. Check back next week to read the second
For more than a year, “2015” has been the Vail Valley buzz. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships have given the year a mythical dimension much like Stanley Kubrick did for 2001. But for the second year, alpine ski races are getting a run for their money as a favored local sporting event from the growing summertime sensation in Colorado – USA Pro Challenge. The organizers call the event “America’s Race,” and no one in America loves cycling more than Coloradans, particularly when the state’s high mountains are the stars of the course.
Since I began my Behind the Scenes column, I’ve longed to work with and write about Vail Resorts’ professionals: golf, culinary, skiing, whatever I could land. Finally, in July, I got my wish when one of my favorite chefs, Kirk Weems, contacted me with a proposal. Weems is executive chef of Allie’s Cabin and Rendezvous at the Beaver Creek Golf Club and is one of the most dedicated and passionate chefs I’ve had the pleasure to know. His love of his craft and dedication to his employees and the organization he serves are, like his laugh, infectious. So when I got the call from Weems to join him and his team providing food and beverage service at the finish line of the pro cycling race, not even a nanosecond passed before I replied with a resounding “yes.”
A little background – and a disclaimer – regarding how I’ve come to know Weems. In 2003, my husband and I began our Colorado odyssey when we skied Beaver Creek. We fell in love with the valley, bought a place and became members of the Beaver Creek Club. So it is from that perspective I got to know Weems and enjoy the fruits of his culinary skills. Withholding that information, and the fact that I was writing a story on my experience, gave me an opportunity to truly be a member of the cast of Weems’ culinary extravaganza.
The Pro Challenge opportunity for Weems materialized in mid-March, when Beaver Creek Mountain Dining was asked to bid on the event. With only four days to turn around a bid to feed more than 475 people in a six-hour period from a makeshift facility in a parking lot in Beaver Creek’s Centennial Station, the Beaver Creek culinary team faced its first hurdle. Successfully over it by mid-May, it was now, literally, off to the races.
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I’m anxious when I have only 21⁄2 months to plan a Chaine des Rotisseurs event for 50. But considering that’s the amount of time Weems and his team had to prepare for the Pro Challenge event, I’m truly humbled. Although this is his job and he has the resources of Vail Resorts behind him, including all of the executive chefs of Signature Clubs and mountain-dining outlets in Vail and Beaver Creek, Weems takes every event – large and small – as a personal quest for excellence. He can’t help it. He’s a chef. Chefs are artists. And their art is a part of their being, whether they work for themselves for someone else.
So back to the planning. Beaver Creek Mountain Dining was responsible not only for feeding sponsors and VIPs but also support crews who bring the event to life both for fans lining the race and those watching from home. Therefore, in addition to the hot and cold buffet served in the long tent stretching the last 65 yards of the 97-mile stage, the Beaver Creek chefs had to prepare box lunches for crews.
With the bid awarded, race organizers visited Beaver Creek in mid-June for a tasting to lock in the menu. Now it was time to start finalizing details. But as executive chef for the Beaver Creek Club, Weems was responsible for feeding participants in two major golf tournaments in July. His attention was diverted from the race until early August. The clock was ticking.
The first order of business was completing the prep list and drafting the Banquet Event Order, known as the BEO. This document is the event blueprint that spells out responsibilities and tasks to complete various action items such as billing, beverage service, transportation, set-up and, of course, menus. With the prep list completed and just less than two weeks to go, it was time to order food and paper goods.
John Faust, corporate food and beverage buyer responsible for all Vail Resorts dining outlets in Eagle County, is challenged every day with insuring Vail Resorts’ mountain-dining chefs receive their shipments in a timely fashion. Although not faced with the winter risk of a blizzard impeding delivery, Faust and Weems still had to carefully time the arrival of food products. With prepping scheduled to begin at Allie’s Cabin on the mountain in Beaver Creek three days before race day, nothing could be left to chance.
The first order of business was to smoke more 300 pounds of chicken at the Sand Wedge kiosk at the sixth tee on Beaver Creek Golf Course. This was not a one-day task and took several weeks to complete. Final prepping began Monday of race week, with Weems and his crew logging 10-to 12-hour days in the winter-only restaurant 9,000 feet above sea level.
Again, going back to my own personal experiences, preparing a mise en place for a dinner party pales in comparison with the massive undertaking required to feed so many people. In the final days before the event, Faust’s food order was transformed into the beginnings of a race-day feast. Prepped items included 36 pounds of mixed greens, eight cases of the year’s first Palisade freestone peaches, four gallons of honey white truffle vinaigrette, 14 loaves of paysan bread, 60 pounds of brie, three gallons of beurre blanc and more than 100 pounds of avocados (both prepped the morning of the race), 175 pounds of rainbow trout and 180 pounds of pork loin.
With less than 24 hours left before the buffet was to open, US Foods delivered a refrigerated trailer to provide storage and cold kitchen space. Final preparations of the cooking tent were complete. Like the racers and their support teams, Weems and his cast of chefs and cooks were ready to face the race-day challenges that lay ahead.
Suzanne Hoffman is a local attorney, wine importer and the Chambellan Provincial of the Southwest Region and Bailli (president) of the Vail chapter of the Chaine des Rotisseurs. She is passionate about all things gastronomique. For more background information on her “Behind the Scenes” series, go to http://www.facebook.com/vailvalleysecrets. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.