Lamb cook-off in Vail |

Lamb cook-off in Vail

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
Daily file photo/Preston Utley

VAIL, Colorado ” Some people might think of it as the other red meat, but on Wednesday, lamb will be the meat in Vail Village.

Twenty-two chefs from local restaurants will tackle the question “What’s the best way to prepare boneless leg?” during the fifth annual Lamb Cook-off. The event kicks off the Taste of Vail culinary festival.

For $3 each, visitors can swipe nibbles of gourmet lamb dishes from tents in the village.

Megan Wortman, executive director for the Denver-based American Lamb board, hopes the event will expose more people to lamb.

“We’ve done consumer research and found that a third of Americans have never had an opportunity to try it,” she said. “So this event is a perfect opportunity to try lamb in all of its glory because as you can imagine, these chefs get incredibly creative.”

The lamb board donated more than 1,700 pounds of boneless leg to the event. Each chef gets 80 pounds to work with.

Expect Island flavor from Atwater on Gore Creek in Vail. Executive chef Rich Beichner said one of the restaurant’s cooks dreamed up a Jamaican jerk dish.

Chefs plan to soak the lamb in marinade, grill it, tuck it inside a pita-like Jamaican bread called Roti and top it with mango salsa.

Beichner looks forward to working with Colorado lamb.

“I couldn’t think of a better product to work with,” he said. “It’s local. It’s natural. It’s some of the finest quality lamb I’ve had anywhere in the world. I can almost taste the sagebrush in it sometimes when you’re simply preparing it.”

A panel of judges will score the entries on taste, originality and presentation, event founder Paul Ferzacca said. Winning chefs score cash. The first place winner gets $1,000, second place earns $500 and the third place nets $250, Ferzacca said. The public gets to weigh in, too. The chef who wins The People’s Choice award gets $200.

The cook-off is the brainchild of Ferzacca and a handful of other members of the Taste of Vail board.

“A lot of the media was asking for a competition, so we thought about, ‘What can we do that would be a cool competition?'” Ferzacca said. “So basically since lamb is one of Colorado’s famous products, we said, well, let’s base it around lamb.”

Ferzacca and the folks at the lamb board decided to focus on boneless leg because that cut is easy to cook at home. It’s also reasonably priced at the supermarket, he said.

The lamb cook-off opened up Taste of Vail to a wider demographic, Ferzacca said.

“The public loves it because they can actually go to a Taste of Vail event that costs as little as $3,” he said. “I think the coolest thing about the event is this is actually an event that a child can participate in at Taste of Vail.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or

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