Cooking School of Aspen
Short is the life span of a restaurant that attempts to be everything to every person —that kind of mission screams identity crisis. Yet that’s what the Cooking School of Aspen is all about, and it works. The chameleon-like venue at the heart of downtown might create a dozen different dining experiences in a week — and not just cooking classes.
Though the dynamic space — flanked by a tricked-out Jenn-Air demonstration kitchen next to banquet seating for 120 and room for casual cocktail parties of up to 160 — welcomes guest chefs to lead hands-on instruction or more laid-back education, the Cooking School of Aspen is a blank canvas for all styles of culinary expression. The room may be sectioned off for intimate private dinners and group retreats or expanded to full capacity to welcome, say, a pop-up restaurant by a visiting Michelin-starred chef.
Owner Rob Ittner, proprietor of Rustique Bistro above in the same building for nearly two decades, believes that diners choose restaurants based on mood — and, often, memory.
“You remember an experience,” he says. “Our goal is to get people to think, ‘What’s going on at the Cooking School?’”
Since opening in March 2016, the Cooking School of Aspen has already featured several world-renowned chefs from around the globe and some 3,000 visitors. From hands-on ravioli making sessions, five-course rainforest fundraisers, and one-on-one chef throwdowns to soup-making intensives, Meatless Monday events, wine-pairing seminars, and improv cooking demos with a stand-up comic-turned-professional private chef, offerings span every taste. Kids classes are ongoing, too.
“It’s a hollow restaurant,” says Ittner, who is doubling programming in 2018 to include new tapas-style Tasting Classes, at which participants learn basic techniques such as five ways to cook eggs or how to prepare curry. Last year’s partnership with Jazz Aspen Snowmass returns, showcasing 11 winter JAS Café music performances, each with two candlelit seatings. Early shows are prefaced by a full, coursed meal for 100 ticketholders; the late show presents a lighter menu for up to 120. For true gourmands, six-course Plated dining events or seven-course tastings by Michelin-chefs are not to be missed.
Since the Cooking School prides itself on intimacy and interaction, every seat in the room may as well be at a chef’s table. Who that chef is, and what kind of cuisine he shares … well, you’ll have to check the calendar to find out. Better yet, book the customizable venue for any type of private class, party or team-building session with a culinary twist.
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