The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner stops in Vail April 10 |

The James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner stops in Vail April 10

Caramie Schnell
Larkspur chef and owner Thomas Salamunovich adds a fava bean and haricot vert emulsion to the tuna crudo nicoise dish while Larkspur Executive Chef Paula Turner works in the background.
Townsend Bessent | |

If you go ...

What: James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner; includes a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres and six-course dinner with wine pairings.

When: 6 p.m. April 10.

Where: Larkspur Restaurant, Vail.

Cost: $190 per person, all inclusive.

More information: Call 970-754-8048 or visit

Colorado has hosted a handful of James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinners over the years, all at notable establishments: five in Crested Butte for the town’s wine and food festival; one at Oak in Boulder; and four in Denver, at the Brown Palace, Linger, Lola and ChoLon Bistro. This month will mark the first-ever Vail event. On April 10, Larkspur Restaurant will host a handful of mostly Colorado guest chefs. Three Vail chefs — Paula Turner, the executive chef at Larkspur, along with Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken and Brian Busker of Matsuhisa — will be joined by Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market in Boulder, Kelly Whitaker of Cart-Driver in Denver and Basta in Boulder, and former Larkspur Executive Chef Armando Garcia, who now heads up Eldorado Kitchen in Sonoma, California. The event is being held in conjunction with the Taste of Vail.

“The wines will be provided by Paul Chevalier, from Chateau L’Esclans, and his friends,” said Nathalia Souza, the director of sales and marketing for Larkspur. “Sacha Lichine produces the most acclaimed rose (wine) in the world, which will be paired with one of the courses.”

Each chef will prepare a course paired with a specific wine, but this isn’t your typical wine dinner, said Jeff Black, of the James Beard Foundation.

“The dinners are super fun … they focus on the chefs instead of the wines,” Black said. “The wines are really important and really good, but at a lot of wine dinners you’ll get a guy from a winery who will come up and talk … for 25 minutes. We focus on the chefs, who come out and talk about their food and converse with guests about everything from how they started cooking to how they came up with their dish.”


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Speaking of the dishes, let’s get to it. Turner will kick off the dinner with a riff on a classic French offering.

“It’s kind of a play on a tuna nicoise salad, minus the salad part,” Turner said. “It has all the components but it’s served as a tuna crudo.”

A fava bean and haricot vert emulsion takes the place of the classic haricots verts and instead of a boiled egg, there’s a lemon aioli.

“Tomatoes classically go with tuna nicoise, so we have dehydrated cherry tomatoes we’ve marinated,” she said. “And usually you get a fingerling potato or a red new potato on the plate; we’ve done a gaufrette, basically a waffle chip.”

Chef Rosenberg, the winner of “Top Chef” season five and owner of Boulder’s Blackbelly Market, will serve a cured salmon terrine with potato and lardo — cured pork fat. A charred onion vinaigrette and “lots of little bells and whistles” will accompany the terrine. The dish is a “great example” of what Blackbelly Market is showcasing right now, he said.

While the dinner will mark Turner’s first time doing a James Beard event, it’s the fourth time Rosenberg has taken part. He gets asked to take part in charity dinners and special events “at least once a day,” but he couldn’t pass this one up.

“I know most of the chefs involved and I’m friends with them,” he said. “It’s fun to do these types of dinners; to all be in the same kitchen is a treat. Second, any event associated with the James Beard Foundation comes with a little clout. People who attend these dinners are pretty serious foodies and it’s good to get in front of my customer base.”

Getting to escape to the mountains for a “mini-vacation” is pretty attractive as well, said Rosenberg, who plans to attend some of the Taste of Vail festivities while he’s in town.


Denver chef Whitaker, who was named EATER Denver’s chef of the year in 2014, plans to use an ingredient for his appetizer that even die-hard foodies likely haven’t tasted: geoduck, pronounced “gooey duck,” which is a very large saltwater clam native to the Pacific Northwest.

“I love using geoduck because many foodies have never had it and most of it is shipped out of the U.S. to really upscale outlets in Asia,” said Whitaker, whose new Denver restaurant Cart-Driver serves wood-fire oven pizza and oysters. “The flavor of the geoduck is amazing and I will be showcasing this as a crudo with some bright spring flavors. I love introducing diners to food that is delicious, sustainable and something they may not have had before.”

Whitaker will also serve a gnocchi dish similar to one he serves at his other restaurant, Basta in Boulder.

“Because we only have wood-fire ovens in our restaurants, we look for pasta that you can cook in the oven rather than boil,” he said. “Semolina gnocco is a Roman-style gnocchi that is made of semolina instead of traditional potato.”

He’ll serve the gnocchi with Hudson Valley duck confit and foie gras, which “makes for a unique ragu rather than the lamb or pork we serve with it in our restaurant.”

Purveyors like Hudson Valley, 7X Beef, Snake River Farms and Taylor Shellfish Farms donate most of the food served at the dinner, while the chefs donate their time and any additional ingredients, Black said. Proceeds from the dinner benefit the James Beard Foundation, funding everything from “scholarships to turning on the lights,” Black said.

Most recently Whitaker took part in a James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner in Seattle with Dana Cree, of Blackbird and avec, and Andrew Zimmerman, of Chicago restaurant Sepia, along with others.

“I love meeting and collaborating with new chefs,” he said. “The Vail dinner is focused a little more on Colorado chefs and I believe this is the perfect time due to the fact that the restaurant scene in Denver is exploding. Chef Hosea (Rosenberg) just opened Blackbelly Market down the street from Basta and he is doing an amazing job to push Boulder to the next level. Anytime I get a chance to cook with Kelly Liken, I take it. She is still putting out some of the best food in Colorado.”

Speaking of Liken, the Vail chef will serve the parting bite: an almond financier with rhubarb compote, candied almonds and strawberry rhubarb ice cream.

“This might be the dinner of the year in Colorado and is not to be missed,” Whitaker said.

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