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Cooking their way to the top

Beaver Creek Culinary Classic

Thursday, 6 p.m., Welcome reception at Splendido

Thursday, 7 p.m., Five-course dinner at Splendido

Friday 11 a.m., Chef ski race

Friday, 7:30 p.m., Five-course dinner at Toscanini

Friday, 7:30 p.m., Five-course dinner at Mirabelle

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Culinary and Wine Fest at the park Hyatt

Sunday, 10:30 a.m., noon, Champagne brunch at Grouse Mountain Grill

“The pastry chefs are gods to us – we revere them.” Tony O’Rourke, Beaver Creek Resort Company executive director

side bar:

Guest culinary chefs:

Matthew Gaudet, Aquavit, New York City

Waldy Malouf, Beacon Restaurant, New York City

David Burke, Park Avenue Cafe, New York City

Mark Franz, Farallon, San Francisco

Laurent Gras, The Fifth Floor, San Francisco

William Koval, Hotel Adolphus, Dallas

Yves Montagne, Radisson SAS Hotel, Brussels

Guest pastry chefs:

Jean-Phillippe Maury, Bellagio, Las Vegas

Jean-Claude Canestrier, Paris Hotel, Las Vegas

Donald Wressell, Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills

Local culinary chefs:

David Walford, Splendido

Chris Dressick, Toscanini

Daniel Joly, Mirabelle

Rick Kangas, Grouse Mountain Grill

Pascal Coudouy, Vue

Geordy Ogden, SaddleRidge

Stephen Trojahn, Remington’s

David Sanchez, Allie’s Cabin

John Westerhaus, Beaver Creek Chophouse

Local pastry chefs:

Shawn Thomas, Grouse Mountain Grill

Trista Couser, Splendido

Daniel Joly, Mirabelle

It’s all about the food.

How much fun is playing in the snow if you don’t get a naughty meal of tasty treats at the end of the day? Take it one step further, and food becomes the main event. Such a mindset gave birth to the Beaver Creek Culinary Classic, a summer and winter event. It kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday.

“Eating and shopping are still the No. 1 and 2 things people do on vacation,” said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company. “We needed to celebrate one of the core values of Beaver Creek, which is lifestyle. So we created this culinary series four years ago.”

The festival is similar to Taste of Vail with a national swing. Star chefs from across the states – and one from Belgium – join forces with chefs at some of Beaver Creek’s premier restaurants. The result is a medley of events: three five-course dinners, a champagne brunch, the Culinary and Wine Fest tasting and new this year, a chef ski race.

For the dinners and the brunch, several guest chefs work with a host chef, each one preparing a course for the meal.

“You’d think they’d have some sort of conflict, sharing kitchens with each other,” said O’Rourke. “But they go out of their way to help each other. The sense of camaraderie between the chefs was a totally unexpected bonus.”

After the first festival in 1998, Splendido, Grouse Mountain Grill and Mirabelle all received the James Beard Award, a very prestigious award in the restaurant industry. None of those restaurants changed their style or approach that year. O’Rourke believes the festival was directly responsible for thrusting them into the international spotlight.

“Sometimes you have to invite other people in to recognize how good you have it,” he said.

New this year is the chef ski race. Four-member teams will race down a course on Haymeadow Run.

“We’ve tried to keep the teams balanced in terms of ability,” said O’Rourke.

Whether they will wear their toques as they swoosh down the slopes remains to be seen.

The main event takes place Saturday evening. A selection of wine, culinary and pastry tastings will be on hand at the Park Hyatt. There will be a silent auction to benefit the Vilar Center for the Arts. A sneak preview at the tasting menu promises such delectables as potstickers of wild boar with chipotle oil, seared sea scallops with white truffle risotto, pheasant foie gras sausage sandwich, oysters mole with creme fraiche caviar and milk chocolate mousse with lime-banana cream and fruit chutney. (The list goes on and on.) There will also be 38 wines poured.

“I don’t know where else you could go to get the quality of food that you’ll get that night,” said O’Rourke.

As for him, he’s excited about the pastry chefs and all the sweets they’ll be bestowing on the attendees.

“The pastry chefs are gods to us – we revere them,” he said. “Some people think dessert is an afterthought, but it’s as important as anything. People will never see pastry of this quality in their lives. It’s another form of art, and even tastes better than it looks.”

None of the chefs are paid to come, but are enticed by the prestige of the festival as well as the play-friendly atmosphere surrounding the four-day event. Bon Appetit, a well established food, travel and wine magazine, has partnered with Beaver Creek for these festivals, both winter and summer. With its reputation in the food and wine world, it adds yet another incentive to participating chefs.

“And never once have we run into anyone who didn’t extend themselves and give back to the festival,” said O’Rourke.

Though some of the events already are sold out, there still are tickets available for Friday’s five-course dinners at Toscanini and Mirabelle (7:30 p.m., $125), Saturday’s Culinary and Wine Fest at the Park Hyatt (7:30 p.m., $125) and the champagne brunch at Grouse Mountain Grill (noon, $65). For more information, call (888) 323-7612, and to buy tickets, call (888) 920-2787.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.


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