A toast to Food & Wine
June 17, 2011
Back in 1983, when a few Aspen-area foodies threw a little drink-and-grub gathering in Snowmass, a chef was someone stashed away back in the kitchen, and wine was what Europeans drank instead of Budweiser. (And those people certainly didn’t refer to themselves as “foodies.”) What a different world it is, with celebrity chefs building restaurant empires, an entire portion of the cable-TV spectrum devoted to shows about cooking, kitchen competitions and consumption of startlingly enormous helpings of meat. Food and drink seem to rival baseball as our national pastime, and at least some of this has to be credited to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.Much of the modern food movement has to do with the chef as a personality, and much of the glamour in food comes from access to the chef. The Classic – which was taken over by Food & Wine magazine in the late ’80s, recognized this early on. The Classic is built on the idea of bringing the chef and the diner closer together – akin to the restaurant trend of breaking down the literal walls between the kitchen and the dining room. Allow home cooks to see how the great chefs go about creating their dishes, give those chefs a live audience to spur them to develop their showmanship, bring in vintners to talk with wine lovers about varietals and vintages, and you’ve got the base for a soaring food movement.The Classic in Aspen hasn’t just helped spur a culture of food; it has also launched a food-festival craze. Following in the footsteps of the local festival are massive food events in Miami’s South Beach and in New York City. And as the food world has become more energized, so has the Classic in Aspen. This year’s event, which runs today through Sunday, features something of a dream team of chefs: Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Jos Andrs, Tom Colicchio, Lidia Bastianich, Claudine and Jacques Ppin and more. If a catastrophe were to hit Aspen this weekend, the fine dining would be brought to a standstill on a global scale.And while we bask in the stovetop flames of these big-name chefs, let’s not forget that there are other sides to our gastronomic contentment – and to the recent food movement. Not to be overlooked are those who provide us our daily bread – area farmers, local cooks, cheese-makers, waiters, Jack Reed who runs the produce stand in downtown Aspen and Jack D’Orio who established Aspen’s thriving Saturday Market. They may not be celebrity chefs, but they add flavor to our lives.Cheers to all.