Chef makes fresh start at Beano’s Cabin
BEAVER CREEK – Chef Steven Topple’s commute is looking a little different these days. Instead of just driving to work, Topple is taking a 15-minute snowcat ride as a part of the daily grind. As the new executive chef at Beano’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, Topple was faced with a new type of dining one where the food was just a small part of the experience, competing with exhilarating sleigh rides, cute wildlife and the romantic allure of being in the middle of the woods surrounded only by snow and trees. But Topple says he loves a challenge, and he’s determined to make the food shine all by itself. “I didn’t want it to be a great dish vs. a great sleigh ride – I wanted it to be both,” Topple said. “Beano’s has a great reputation. People spoke highly of it, but what I wanted to do was increase the food aspect, create more consistency.”
But rebuilding the menu of an established restaurant is never easy, and Topple dealt with a bit of resistance from the regulars in the lunch crowd. Beano’s is only open to Beaver Creek Club members for lunch. “People here like the same old, same old; he’s been finding a balance,” said Matt Lung, a cook at Beano’s. So when re-envisioning the menu, Topple kept old favorites, while adding his own values to the mix to ensure every dish is “bursting with flavor.” He placed new emphasis on local products, like Colorado lamb, local cheeses and fruits and vegetables from the Grand Valley. When it can’t be found close to home, Topple said he makes sure it’s the freshest possible. “People don’t realize they can have really good fish at mountain resorts,” Topple said.
And he’s out to prove those critics wrong. “This tuna was Fed-Ex-ed from Hawaii,” he said, serving an amuse bouche of tuna tartar on a crispy wanton. “It was probably swimming not two days ago.”Topple’s willingness to get out of the kitchen to mingle with guests has made an impression on his wait staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for more than a decade. “He’s been fantastic,” said Sean Razee, who has worked at Beano’s for nine years. “He takes the time to say hi to guests, and the food was a noticeable change. He’s really trying to step up the quality here.”Subscribing to the “you eat with your eyes first” philosophy, Topple adds several colors to each plate.
“It’s really important to make things impressive,” he said. The open kitchen only helps his cause. “People feel like they’re in for a treat when they see them working away,” Topple said. “And it’s important for people to see it’s clean.”A self-described neat-freak, Topple’s rigorous standards carry throughout the multi-level kitchen. In the walk-in fridge, everything is kept in labeled, clear containers.
Topple’s commute wasn’t the only thing that changed when he accepted the job at Beano’s. He’s also dealing with a whole new way of getting food. No longer does a truck pull up to a loading dock – instead, everything is transported by snowcat. And every once in a while, a snowcat breaks down or isn’t available, and then the team at Beano’s has the unique task of hauling food up to 9,200 feet above sea level on snowmobiles. “It’s a challenge, but I like challenges,” Topple said. “I thought it would be intriguing to work in a little cabin. It’s like it’s my own little cabin.”But the post and beam structure is hardly petite. Filling about 350 bellies and souls every night, Topple is accommodating more than twice as many dinners than he did as the sous chef of the Wildflower restaurant in the Lodge at Vail, where he worked for more than a decade before the move to Beano’s. However, moving up on the corporate ladder doesn’t mean Topple gets to take it easy. He endures a taxing schedule for the craft he loves, putting in 12 hour-days, six days a week. But Topple is already seeing a change in how his guests view the restaurant, which makes it all worth it.
“It’s really rewarding,” he said. “I hear about people on the sleigh ride talking about how good the food was. I love it.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado