Vail Valley Character: David Clawson
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Vail, Colorado chef David Clawson has cooked for almost 30 years in kitchens all over the country. He spent a year at the Lodge at Vail in 2005 and 2006 before leaving to cook in San Francisco. But he couldn’t stay away from the Vail Valley and after a short detour this summer along the Appalachian Trail, he’s back in Vail as the executive chef of the Game Creek Restaurant on Vail Mountain.
Vail Daily: What are the challenges of cooking at 10,000 feet?
David Clawson: Things cook a little bit different for sure, you learn to make adjustments in cooking time and baking time and with some ingredients. It’s not a tough adjustment. I think once you make some initial changes in your techniques, it translates through the rest of everything you do.
VD: What kind of things did you eat while hiking the Appalachian Trail?
DC: Surprisingly, I didn’t tell too many people I was a chef because the expectation would be huge and I was trying to get away from that. But one day I was walking through the woods early in the morning and there was an old gentlemen in overalls collecting morrell mushrooms from under leaves. He gave me a few for my dinner ” which was ramen noodles, so I had ramen noodles with morrell mushrooms. It was pretty tasty. I infused the morrells in the juice before I added the noodles, it was pretty good.
I mixed peanut butter with hot sauce and added that to ramen noodles. That became known on the trail, it was almost like a Thai noodle thing.
VD: How did you get into cooking?
DC: I was a chemistry major in college (who) was average in the classroom, but did extremely well in the lab for some reason. The lab was where I excelled and when I graduated from West Virginia, I was going to work at the U.S. Geological Survey around the D.C. area.
I was waiting to hear (about the job and) a friend of mine was a waiter in a French restaurant and asked me to be a bus boy a few times. One particular night, a cook didn’t show up and I asked the chef if I could help him.
The kitchen and the chem lab were similar ” procedure was similar to recipe. I just took to it and he saw something in me and told me to come back the next day. By the time the U.S. Geological Survey came around, I was hooked.
VD: What’s your favorite food?
DC: I was fortunate enough to be the chef of the Hotel Nikko in Atlanta and I had gone from French basic cooking to kind of modern Nouvelle French to American cuisine in the ’80s there. When I got through the Ritz Carlton and got to the Nikko Hotel I was putting Asian influences into my French, Nouvelle French and American cuisine. Suddenly it became kind of global and anything goes. I really love the Asian flavors and started introducing them into my repertoire.
After being in San Francisco for the last two years, I’m pretty heavily Asian influenced.
VD: What do you like to do when you’re not cooking?
DC: Hiking is good. I like to take to pictures, mostly of food. My brother is a sailor, he and I have been restoring a sail boat that we want to race around the Chesapeake Bay. I spent a couple months on that this past year.
VD: What’s your favorite cereal?
DC: Raisin Bran Crunch.
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