At the chef’s table | AspenTimes.com

At the chef’s table

May Selby

Cooking School of Aspen sommelier Louisa Goldsmith and her husband, Adam.

On any given Friday night in Aspen, you can count on one surefire source of entertainment – dinner prepared and presented by Chef Glenn Smith at the Cooking School of Aspen. Ever since the school opened 10 years ago, Smith has been on the scene serving up flavorful cuisine and lively conservation. As the chef-in-residence, Smith’s method of instruction combines humor, wit and a willingness to combine ingredients one might not think to mix off the top of their head.One of the more popular offerings on the Cooking School calendar, Friday Night Improv, is a journey of the senses as Smith presents a multicourse meal of his choice to a slew of fascinated diners. More of a dinner theater than an actual class, Friday Night Improv attracts guests of all ages each week.

“It’s a great place for a first date because I do all the talking,” Smith quipped as he tossed the first course at a recent Friday dinner – a tomato salad served with cucumber sorbet.Our group comprised diners from Florida, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Aspen with varying degrees of expertise in the kitchen. What we did share in common was an openness to an unknown menu and an appreciation for Smith’s approach to cooking.

To my left were Stan and Joan Weiner of Minneapolis, who were encouraged by friends to attend. “We heard the food was fabulous,” Stan explained. To my right were locals Ira DuCre and Dawnette Smith, who opted for the venue for their Friday night outing.During his opening remarks, Smith halfheartedly apologized for any profanity he might use or for his affinity for talking fast throughout the process. Throughout the demonstration and presentation, it became apparent that improv certainly takes on two meanings with Smith – both in his manner of cooking and in regards to his sense of the ridiculous.

From comparing rice wine vinegar to Canada for its “neutral stance” to suggesting one treat cooking like it’s war by “throwing everything you got at it,” Smith’s one-liners kept the crowd enthused.There was never a dull moment as he enacted impersonations of the Iron Chef rising behind the counter, or his playful nature in directing his assistant, Sasha Klein. Recently back from Vietnam, where he studied the vestiges of French cooking, Klein’s resilience to the chef-in-residence’s barrage of remarks was equally amusing.

As the steely complement to Smith, sommelier Louisa Goldsmith resolutely imparted the history and importance of the wines she chose to pair with each course. Goldsmith joined the school several years ago after developing her palette and wide range of wine knowledge in such establishments as Chateauneuf du Papes in Avignon, France, and the Windows on the World in New York City.She offered a cava from Spain (essentially a sparkling wine) as an aperitif to begin the tasting and continued with the international theme as we sampled varietals from France and Italy as well.

Following the salad starter our next course was chilled vichyssoise with blue crab, then beef tenderloin with watermelon salsa and roasted potato salad, ending on a note of summer berries with whipped marscapone. All left entertained, well-fed, and at least a bit more inspired to attempt cooking with reckless abandon at home.In addition to Friday Night Improv, The Cooking School offers an array of special events and classes from private parties to hands-on-instruction to sessions expressly for kids. For a calendar of classes or more information, visit http://www.cookingschoolofaspen.com or call 920-1879.To contact May to send info, insights or invites, e-mail allthewaymaymay@hotmail.com