Aspen Times Weekly: Feeding Each Other |

Aspen Times Weekly: Feeding Each Other

by Amanda Rae


Taste of the Valley

Sept. 19, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fourth Street Plaza, Carbondale

$50/$125 VIP; advance only

10 percent of proceeds to Planting Seeds

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IT STARTED WITH a thank you note.

“I couldn’t understand what he was saying because he was so young, but I got the fact that he was excited to teach his family something,” says chef, caterer, and 14-year local Susie Jimenez. Shortly after tasting television fame as 2011 “Food Network Star” runner-up, Jimenez received a call from a third-grade teacher at Basalt Elementary School, imploring her to teach a hands-on cooking class. She did, sending students off with a recipe for chicken lettuce wraps and the confidence to prepare the snack solo.

“The son came home with a sparkle in his eye and asked me to take him grocery shopping,” Jimenez recalls the boy’s mother telling her, “so we jumped in the car and went grocery shopping together. Because he did it in the classroom, he knew what everyone had to do. He delegated: ‘Make sure you add that right,’ he said. ‘One plus one equals two—two cups!’ It was the most amazing one-plus-one, ever.”

Jimenez takes a deep breath and sighs. “What drove me crazy is that I had to ask the teacher for money,” she says. “Teachers don’t get paid enough for this, and it’s coming out of their pocket. I don’t have the finances to do this for free. I know how to cook and have a good time with kids.”

10 percent of ticket sales from taste of the valley will fund local chef susie jimenez’s new nonprofit planting seeds initiative, which funds hands-on cooking demos in preschools through third-grade classrooms in the Roaring forkschool district.cause: good food.”—Chef Susie Jimenez

So, when Jimenez began planning an autumn food festival to echo her Taste of the Valley rooftop party held at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen in June, she knew what to do.

“I decided right off the bat that 10 percent of ticket sales will go to this account for the Roaring Fork School District,” Jimenez says. “That will dictate how many classes I’m able to do. It costs roughly $86 to teach 26 kids — it’s not that much. I’m hoping this becomes a movement that chefs want to be involved in.”

Not only does the inaugural Taste of the Valley feast—held at Carbondale’s Fourth Street Plaza on Sept. 19 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — benefit Jimenez’s new nonprofit Planting Seeds initiative; the local food showcase aims to feed — and educate—a hungry public.

For a $50 ticket purchased in advance only, guests will sample food and drink from 17 chefs, distilleries, breweries, and wineries, all located from Basalt to Glenwood Springs and using produce picked from Paonia to Hotchkiss.

Every hour, a demonstration stage sponsored by Whole Foods will welcome a different presenter to share recipes and industry tricks. Soupstress Gina Cucina will prepare pasta with roasted asparagus pesto and grilled corn; Sarah Niebler of Sunshine & Moons will share the art of gluten-free baking through angel food cake with peach compote and fresh whipped cream. Farmer, chef, and jack-of-all-trades Jason Smith of Basalt’s Rock Bottom Ranch will butcher a whole pig in front of the audience.

“And with that pig I’m making tacos al pastor on a rotisserie,” says Jimenez, who will also whip together a giant pan of Spanish paella and Mexican corn on the cob with queso fresco and lime. A twinkle flashes in her eye. “And a sangria corner with peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries from Hotchkiss and Paonia.”

Oh, and boooze will flow in the tents filling the town park across from Main Street’s Pour House pub. Woody Creek Distillers and Marble Distilling are showcasing their entire product lines and mixing up two signature cocktails each; Salida’s Boathouse Distillery will pour tequila and bourbon; and suds will flow freely from Roaring Fork Beer Company and Carbondale Beer Works.

There will also be food galore from NoFo Foods — “Megan [MacMillan] did the most amazing empanadas at my Food & Wine party,” Jimenez gushes — plus Mawa’s Kitchen, Mrs. Barr’s Natural Foods, Riviera Supper Club, and Zheng Asian Bistro; fresh-pressed sips from Tonic Juicery; and espresso and frozen dessert by Rock Canyon Coffee. All participants are donating their time to help Planting Seeds blossom to life.

“Aspen’s got its own scene, but there’s a scene downvalley —where all the farms are,” explains Jimenez, who pens a First Friday recipe column for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and hosts a culinary radio show on KNFO-FM.

“You don’t see a cattle farm in the back of somebody’s house in Aspen. From Glenwood to here, there are thousands of restaurants, chefs, catering companies, breweries, farms, orchards, wineries, canning companies, hot sauces…I’m seeing the connection we all have. I want to pay it forward.”

Though the first-annual affair on Sept. 19 is held in Carbondale, Jimenez hopes that Taste of the Valley will grow to include similar fiestas throughout the valley.

“It’s not about location, it’s about the culinary movement,” Jimenez says. “I want people to come together for one cause: good food. If you want to be involved in helping kids eat better and this movement that takes us back to cooking basics,” adds the chef, cracking her knuckles beneath a grin, “you’re invited.”

See you at Taste of the Valley on Sept. 19!

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