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Vail Valley chefs in training

Sarah Mausolf
smausolf@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyCelebrity chef Ming Tsai gives a cooking demonstration to a class full of food enthusiastic students Thursday at Battle Mountain High School in Colorado's Vail Valley
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VAIL VALLEY, Colorado -Television chef Ming Tsai may have been working the wok Thursday inside Battle Mountain High School. But he wasn’t the only cook in the culinary kitchen.

When he asked the roughly 60 students in the room who likes to cook, 18-year-old Clint Hervert raised his hand.

“What’s your best dish?” Tsai asked

“Pan roasted Colorado lamb loin,” Hervert answers simply.

“With?” Tsai probed.

“Haystack Mountain goat cheese tijbale, organic spinach leek and potato galette, asiago olive tuile, sauce marchand de vin,” Hervert said.

“Do you want to come up here?” Tsai joked.

In a valley where five-star restaurants are more common than fast-food drive-thrus, it’s no surprise many kids here dream of becoming chefs. The new Battle Mountain High School’s design encourages those dreams – it’s equipped with a professional kitchen complete with an indoor grill, industrial fryers and a device mysteriously called “The Rational self-cooking center.”

“The only time I’ve ever seen one is on Iron Chef,” Hervert said. “It cooks things in literally a minute.”

It was inside this elaborate kitchen that Tsai showed students how to make soy glazed chicken vegetable stir fry on a noodle cake. Tsai not only hosts the “Simply Ming” cooking show on American Public Television, he owns the Blue Ginger restaurant in Boston, Mass., and beat Chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”

Tsai gave students all kinds of cooking tips (“taste as you go,”) and offered some practical advice about financing a restaurant (pay attention in your math classes).

Tsai is in town for the Bon Appetit culinary festival in Beaver Creek. He was invited to demonstrate at Battle Mountain by school board member Brian Nolan, who owns five restaurants in the Vail Valley including the Beaver Creek Chophouse.

Tsai said the new culinary kitchen enticed him to give the presentation. Culinary education has come a long way, he said.

“It’s no longer just a home-ec thing,” Tsai said.

Once the domain of women who were training for marriage, cooking has become more prestigious in the United States, he said.

“In the past 20 years being a chef has become a really sought after position in the United States.

“That’s not why I do it,” he added. “I just love to cook.”

Colorado Mountain College provided funding for the $360,000 culinary kitchen, said Todd Rymer, the college’s director of culinary education. The college donated most of the money and raised the remaining $150,000, he said. The college holds non-credit cooking classes in the kitchen on nights and weekends.

Along with hosting community classes, the kitchen could soon become a training ground for teen chefs.

Sharon Wible teaches Battle Mountain High School’s advanced cooking class, called ProStart. She’s still learning how to use all the professional equipment in the culinary kitchen but envisions incorporating it into the class.

“We’re so fortunate to have such a beautiful facility like this,” she said.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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