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Let’s get cookin’

Erik Vienneau

There is always one sure-fire way to make a party a major success; host it at one of the top ski destinations on the planet.Culinary festivals take place throughout the year in dozens of locations across the country. But Beaver Creek Culinary Festival, taking place Jan. 27-30, is unique. There is, of course, the location. And then there are the high-caliber, internationally-known chefs, which are as spectacular and well known at Beaver Creek itself.Almost every chef who receives an invite to the Beaver Creek Culinary Festival & Celebrity Chef Ski Race, accepts a good sign that the event is well-respected.”Some of these guys are running multiple restaurants across the country,” says Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company, “It is mind boggling how they can get it all done and attend these festivals.”But, when chefs have a chance for a ‘working’ holiday in snow country, they say yes.”They can finally take a deep breath, enjoy life and show their skills and talents off both in the kitchen and on the slopes,” O’Rourke says.Chefs this year include: Ken Frank of La Toque in Napa, Calif.; Giada De Laurentiis, chef of Food Network’s “Everyday Italian”; Mark Militello of his namesake’ Mark’s restaurant based in Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Jean-Claude Canestrier of the Paris Hotel, Las Vegas. These chefs are the big shots foodies read about in Bon Appetit Magazine. They are the ones who own multiple, four-star restaurants, are given the star treatment by the media and write their own cookbooks. But, once at Beaver Creek, the pressure is off and there is more than preparing food alongside local chefs on their minds. The tension of being the best in the kitchen is lessened. Instead it is transferred to the slopes. These chefs come here to race against local chefs, as much as they do to cook.For most chefs, the Celebrity Chef Ski Race, which takes place alongside the culinary event itself, goes beyond a little fun the competition sometimes gets even more serious on the slopes then it does in local restaurant’s host kitchens. “It’s a function of the chef’s make-up,” O’Rourke suggests. “They didn’t get to where they are today without having a hard-working, competitive, Type-A attitude both in the kitchen and in other aspects of their lives.”Local chefs like Saddle Ridge’s Geordy Ogden and many visiting chefs will tell you the races are ‘just for fun’ but quickly follow up with a report on their on-slope prowess (at least five chefs we spoke to told us they finished top-three last year).”I’m the fastest chef in Beaver Creek,” chef Ogden says, mentioning his sous-chef partner’s equal talent. “You throw a bunch of chefs together and nobody wants to loose,” Ogden admits, “We can’t let one of these tourist chefs come and beat up on us local chefs, it’s a matter of pride.”Last year Ogden was paired up with Chef Ken Frank and Jimmy Bradley (The Harrison, New York, N.Y.) both of whom are returning this year. After hanging both on and off the race course with the two last year, Ogden says he looks forward to presenting Sunday brunch with Bradley this season at Saddle Ridge. “It’s really great fun,” he says. “Chefs are pretty flamboyant people, they like to show off, so put a bunch of us together we can’t help but raise the bar.”Visiting Chef Patrice Caillot has every reason to be confident he will shine both on and off the slopes at the upcoming festival. He recently left his pastry chef position at the Ritz Carlton Las Vegas Hotel for an executive chef role at world-renowned Ethel M Chocolates. He also is the reigning World Champion Pastry Chef. Just this week he was closing in on the bid to be the official chocolate-provider at this year’s Grammy Award show. Once at the Beaver Creek Culinary Festival he will present an all-chocolate menu Friday evening and promises to sweeten the action at Saturday’s swanky grand tasting.”Many of us French chefs grew up very close to the mountain,” Chef Caillot says regarding the race. “We have a pretty strong advantage.” Reporting that he finished top-five last year, he says of the ten-or-so food festivals he attends each year that the Beaver Creek Culinary Festival is his favorite due to the relaxed atmosphere and ability to get out in nature.”The people are great there,” Caillot says, “it has such a nice small town feel. The skiing is not really that competitive everybody just has fun.” Most chefs say the racing portion of the festival is a great chance to talk with each other and sample competitors’ food. “It’s kind of like a big reunion party,” he adds. Plus, he mentions that the resort itself is ‘unbelievable’ and that the snow is ‘unreal’ compared to Europe.Whether it is a five-course dinner at Beaver Creek’s Splendido at The Chateau or Saturday night’s Grand Tasting at the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt, when chefs of this caliber unite, good camaraderie, fun and great tastes are inevitable.The festivities begin Thursday with the third annual Celebrity Chef Ski Race. Four-member teams will lead local and visiting chefs in a dual giant slalom race, followed by a luncheon. Also Thursday, Splendido at The Chateau will host a five-course dinner. Friday evening, the second annual World Cup Challenge at The Vilar Center will feature a free ‘Iron Chef’ competition. Saturday, a hands-on cooking demonstration will take place at Vue Restaurant. Chefs will trade their ski poles for toques at Saturday night’s Grand Tasting, a walk-around wine, food and pastry tasting at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa. A portion of proceeds will be donated to the non-profit Resource Center. Saddle Ridge will host a brunch on Sunday. VTFor general information on the Beaver Creek Culinary Classic and Celebrity Chef Ski Race, call (888) 323-7612. For tickets and packages, call (888) 920-2787 or visit http://www.beavercreek.com.Beaver Creek Culinary Festival & Celebrity Chef Ski Race Calendar of EventsJan. 27-30Join Bon Appetit and Beaver Creek Resort for the third annual Celebrity Chef Ski Race this January. Chefs from around the country will descend on Beaver Creek Resort to display their racing abilities on the mountain and their culinary talent in the village.Thursday, Jan. 27Join chefs from Beaver Creek and around the world in a four-member team race down the NASTAR race course, or cheer on your favorites from the VIP tent at the finish line. Awards ceremony follows with lunch at the Park Hyatt. 9 a.m. registration, 11 a.m. race. $200 per person.Also, from 7 10 p.m., a five-course dinner will be served at Splendido. Host Chef David Walford and Guest Chefs Ken Fank (La Toque) and Jean-Claude Canestrier (The Paris Hotel) will be on-hand to cook up this amazing feast. Cost is $125.Friday, Jan. 28From 7:30 10 p.m. the World Cup Challenge takes place at the Vilar Center. Three sets of chefs have 20 minutes each to create a meal using “mystery” ingredients. The Challenge features amateur, guest and local chef divisions. This event is free.Saturday, Jan. 29Culinary Luncheon Demonstration at Vue Restaurant at the Park Hyatt at Beaver Creek. Chef Pascal Coudouy presents a hands-on cooking demonstration. Event is limited to 32 participants. Tickets are $100 each.Beaver Creek Grand Tasting at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, featuring wine, culinary, and pastry tastings from visiting guest chefs and Beaver Creek’s finest restaurants, 7:30 10 p.m. The event also features two cooking demonstrations sponsored by Bon Appetit magazine. Grand Tasting tickets are $95 each. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Resource Center, a 501(C)(3) organization.Sunday, Jan. 30Enjoy a delicious buffet brunch with Host Chef Geordy Ogden (Saddle Ridge at Beaver Creek) and guest chefs Kurt Gutenbruner of Wallse (New York, N.Y.), Mark Militello of Mark’s Las Olas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes (Baltimore). The brunch features a selection of sparkling wines from Spain. Event held at Saddle Ridge, Beaver Creek, 10:30 a.m. 1 p.m. $75 per person.Packages:Ski Package: Ski Race, dinner, lunch demo, grand tasting and brunch $595 per person.Non-ski Package: Dinner, lunch demo, grand tasting and brunch $395 per person.


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