Colorado resort town restaurant 1 of 5 in state to win coveted Michelin star; Vail area eateries also earn spot in guide

Sarah Girgis
Aspen Times
Sweet Basil in Vail, one of the valley’s best-known restaurants, was named a recommended restaurant and will appear in the Michelin Guide alongside a few other prestigious Colorado restaurants.
Daily file photo

DENVER — After years of preparation and months of speculation, Colorado restaurants have officially earned their place in the coveted Michelin Guide. And in an unveiling ceremony on Tuesday night at Mission Ballroom, Aspen’s Bosq joined three Denver restaurants — Beckon, Brutø, and The Wolf’s Tailor — and Boulder’s Frasca as the only spots in Colorado to earn a coveted star.

For the inaugural year in Colorado, the guide covers Aspen and Snowmass Village, Boulder, Denver, the town of Vail, and Beaver Creek Resort.

Resort town notables

While Bosq was the only restaurant among Colorado’s iconic resort towns of Aspen, Beaver Creek, Vail, and Snowmass Village to receive a star, other restaurants in the region earned “recommended” status from the guide.

In the Vail area, Sweet Basil and Osaki’s in Vail Village earned a spot in the guide, as did Wyld at the Ritz-Carlton in Bachelor Gulch, and Mirabelle and Splendido At The Chateau in Beaver Creek.

Making the cut in and around Aspen are Element 47 at The Little Nell, Mawa’s Kitchen in the Airport Business Center, and Prospect at Hotel Jerome.

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Bosq stands alone

Bosq was the only restaurant outside of the Front Range to earn a star. The intimate, tasting menu eatery is run by Aspen native and James Beard Award-nominated chef Barclay Dodge and his wife, Molly.

“This is the coolest thing,” Dodge said while donning the official Michelin star chef’s coat he was given. “We’re so psyched.”

He said he doesn’t focus on the “hype” surrounding the Michelin Guide.

“I’m in the kitchen. I only focus on the work. I didn’t even think about (the Michelin Guide) until this morning,” he said. “I just hope this brings business to my team in Aspen — that’s my goal. I’m happy about the feather in my cap, that’s a big part of it, but the strength of the business and my family and my workers, that’s what it means to me.”

Dodge, who was named “Best Chef” in The Aspen Times’ “Best of 2022,” is in his restaurant every day, creating and curating every dish and experience with his cooks, kitchen, and front-of-house staff, ensuring every detail meets the highest standard.

With a love for the community and the environment, he focuses on wild-foraged and local small farm-grown ingredients for his dishes. He insists on green practices throughout the restaurant through the implementation of a strict recycling and composting program, a no-waste food policy, house-bottled still and sparkling water, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances.

Hours before the official ceremony, the Michelin Guide included Bosq’s lobster grilled over juniper branches with buttermilk and dill as one of their inspector’s three favorite dishes in Colorado.

What is the Michelin Guide?

The Michelin Guide, which is owned by the French tire manufacturer, dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. Starting in 1926, the guide began to award stars to fine dining restaurants, eventually settling on the three-star rating system that remains today. One star signifies “a very good restaurant,” two stars are “excellent cooking that is worth a detour,” and three stars mean “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.” The guide has evolved and grown since its first publication in 1900.

Coinciding with the birth of the automobile, French industrialist brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin published the guide and gave it away for free to encourage people to buy early automobiles in hopes of creating a demand for Michelin tires. That first guide included maps and instructions on how to change tires. It began charging a fee and expanded to include a list of hotels and restaurants.

The guide gained popularity throughout Europe but didn’t really take hold in the United States until 2005 with its entry into fine dining in New York City. The guide has since expanded to California, Chicago, Washington D.C., Florida, and now Colorado. An Atlanta Michelin Guide is also coming in 2023.

Getting a star

Obtaining a Michelin star has always been shrouded in mystery. The inspectors are anonymous, full-time employees from diverse international backgrounds who follow a strict set of rules and are usually sent to regions far from where they reside so as not to skew the results. Restaurants are visited multiple times throughout the year to ensure quality and consistency. Urban legends abound among chefs and front-of-house staff on how to spot an inspector.

According to an official statement by the Michelin Guide, the Centennial State was chosen as the sixth U.S. location “for having a rich, culinary community rooted in established, notable chefs along with innovative upstarts, the Rocky Mountain state highlights technique and craft.”

The statement goes on to say that the process of selection stays true to Michelin’s long-established five requirements: “quality products, harmony of flavors, mastery of cooking techniques, voice and personality of the chef reflected in the cuisine, and consistency between each visit and throughout the menu (Each restaurant is inspected several times a year).”

But as reported on Tuesday, Sept. 12 by Julia Moskin in The New York Times, the process of bringing the Michelin Guide to your state and region in the first place is a little more complicated than that. According to the Times, the Colorado Tourism Office paid $100,000 to bring Michelin to the state, followed by the tourism boards in Denver, Boulder, Aspen, and Vail as well as the two resort companies of Snowmass and Beaver Creek, “which told The New York Times they each paid Michelin $70,000 to $100,000. Aurora and Colorado Springs among others, declined to participate.”

Despite the controversy, many cities, chefs, hotels, and restaurateurs maintain that being awarded a Michelin star is one of the highest culinary honors that can be earned, bringing in wanted revenue and status while encouraging surrounding restaurants to up their game. Indeed, with only 221 (before Colorado) Michelin-starred restaurants in the United States, it still is a difficult milestone to achieve.

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