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Food & Wine Classic celebrates its June party days

Aspen Chamber Resort Association kicks off festival with its member luncheon

Aspen-based celebrity chef Byron Gomez demonstrates how to prepare one of his dishes during the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s Food & Wine Classic luncheon on Thursday at the Hotel Jerome. (Photo Courtesy ACRA/C2 Photography)

For the first time in three years, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association on Thursday was able to kick off the Food & Wine Classic with a member luncheon in June.

Due to the pandemic, the four-day epicurean festival was canceled in 2020 and was held in a limited capacity in September.

“Just eight months ago we raised our glasses in this room to the 2021 Food & Wine member luncheon, but don’t get used to it, ” joked ACRA CEO and President Debbie Braun to a full ballroom at the Hotel Jerome. ”We are going to stick to the June date, that is unless of course in case COVID starts showing monkeypox around.“



The luncheon serves as the unofficial kickoff to the festival and this year, the menu was created by celebrity chef Byron Gomez, executive chef at Aspen restaurant 7908 and who also competed in season 18 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

A native of Costa Rica, Gomez demonstrated to the crowd how he prepared the first course on the menu, which was hearts of palm ceviche, sopa negra and passionfruit dressing.




“The current administration made June immigrant heritage month,” he said, adding he enjoys sharing food with immigrants who grew up in this country. “My resume extends from Michelin star restaurants, one-star, two-star, three-star and I was doing other people’s food in very fine-dining restaurants and the last few years I decided that I wanted to go back to my roots, to what identifies me.”

Thursday’s menu was based around Gomez’s childhood memories — marinated fish, roasted chicken with guava glaze, fermented banana puree, yuka cake and fresh herbs.

The desert was Gomez’s mother’s rice pudding recipe, topped with tropical fruit and elderflower.

The menu items were paired with Wines from Spain, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary at the Food & Wine Classic.

Braun and Eliza Voss, ACRA’s vice president of destination marketing, took the opportunity to update chamber members about the organization’s recent destination marketing plan and its Defy Ordinary campaign.

Voss touted the extraordinary offerings of cultural programming this summer and the outdoor recreational opportunities for guests and locals, but also acknowledged challenges facing the resort economy.

“Demand for Aspen has cooled a bit with the reopening of Europe and the increased gas prices,” Voss said. “As we adapt to changes outside of our control, we are ever committed to creating a stable environment for our member businesses and are in a unique position of being able to leverage Aspen’s tourism economy to help tackle the challenges our community faces.”

Braun said it’s difficult to take the survey results from residents polled last year as preparation for the destination marketing plan and translate them into something people can feel.

“I really hope that you got a sense of pride of being from Aspen, and I also hope that we can start shifting our narrative from ‘We’re so busy’ to ‘We are so lucky, we are so happy,’” Braun said. “I know if we can start doing it inside this room, I know it can spread like wildfire.”

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