Food lovers rejoice |

Food lovers rejoice

Cassie Pence
Special to the Daily

BEAVER CREEK – And you thought people traveled to Beaver Creek for the skiing.Savvy food lovers are marking the resort on their must-see list because its culinary culture is sky rocketing, right in the midst of people careening down the slopes.The resort company and Bon Appetit Magazine have invited 11 renown guest chefs to ski, cook and learn what our local chefs are whipping up for the seventh annual Beaver Creek Culinary Classic, beginning Thursday.One of the highlights is the Celebrity Chef Ski Race, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday on the Nastar Course on Beaver Creek Mountain. Four-member chef teams will trade in their spatulas for ski poles for a little healthy competition outside the kitchen before any cooking events begin.

“I’m very nervous for the skiing race. I have not skied for many years, I would like to see what my body will say about it,” said Chef Rafih Benjelloun, owner and executive chef of Imperial Fez, a Moroccan restaurant in Atlanta. He used to own a restaurant by the same name in Vail. So returning to the High Country is an extra special treat for Chef Rafih.”I’m looking forward to seeing all my old friends and the new and exciting foods in Colorado,” said Chef Rafih.Thursday night Splendido Executive Chef David Walford will host a five-course dinner with guest chef Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa Valley and guest pastry chef Jean-Claude Canestrier of the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.”Ken Frank is well known in the chef world. I heard of him for years and years, and I’m honored to have him here,” said Walford. “The dinner is a neat experience for me and my crew to work with another guy and see his creations and his technique.”

The evening will begin with Bob Finney on the piano while servers pass around hor d’oureves. Walford said every sampling will be the highlight at his dinner, but the Nantucket Bay scallops with Jerusalem artichoke and chanterelles will be the high point because the scallops are in season.The chefs real skills will be tested Friday for the World Cup Chef Challenge on the Vilar Center Stage from 7:30-10 p.m. It’s the classic’s own version of “Iron Chef.” Three sets of chefs, including amateurs chefs Steve Pope and Mathew Juechter, will have 20 minutes to create dishes using six of the 10 mystery ingredients.”You want to know right away if you’re going to grill something, sear something or sauté. That should already be in your head, as far as cooking technique and preparations. Then you want to start thinking about combining flavors,” said David Sanchez of Allie’s Cabin on Beaver Creek Mountain, who assisted a chef last year in the contest and will compete this year against Stephen Trojahn of The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.Chefs are allowed to bring one mystery ingredient of their own, and Sanchez said you choose one that is versatile.

“It’s a great test of the chefs skills. It doesn’t tell you who the better chef is, but it’s fast thinking and fast moving,” said Sanchez. The event is free and open to the public.The weekend culminates with the Grand Tasting at the Park Hyatt from 7:30-10 p.m. Twenty-five chefs will be serving samples that highlight their signature dish. There is no formal seating, guests will walk around to different booths tasting and drinking wine at their leisure. Portions of the $95 ticket price benefit the Resource Center.”It’s a social event, but there is a little bit of competitiveness within it. You’ll want to make a good showing,” said Sanchez. “Local chefs take a lot of pride in it, because look at where we work. Big city chefs are just blown away by the event when they see the level and the quality that prepared out here. It’s comparable to anywhere in the world.”For more information or to purchase tickets for any of the events, call (888)-920-2787, or log on to

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or, Colorado

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