Q&A with Aspen’s Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy’s – An American Restaurant & Bar | AspenTimes.com

Q&A with Aspen’s Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy’s – An American Restaurant & Bar

Staff report


To find out about what’s in store for The Aspen Times’s 2020 Summer Kickoff Virtual Culinary weekend, go to http://www.aspentimes.com/culinaryweekend to check out the schedule and register for a virtual 5k and webinars hosted by local chefs and wine experts.

With the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen placed on the back burner until 2021, The Aspen Times has created the 2020 Summer Kickoff/Virtual Culinary Weekend to help fill the void. The Aspen Times is hosting a collection of virtual events to fill in just a bit, at a time when the town usually is welcoming chefs and sommeliers for Aspen’s annual rite of summer. The Times is hosting four Zoom webinars (as well as a virtual 5K) this coming weekend. This week, we’ll be asking some of the hosts about the industry trying to rebound from the pandemic and what this weekend of wine and food means to them.

Today, we talk with Jimmy Yeager, owner of Jimmy’s , who will be hosting a webinar Saturday with his sommelier Greg Van Wagner.

What will you miss most about the Food & Wine Weekend?

Our vast community of industry friends who we get to host at our restaurant and bar; some of whom we only get to see once a year. Most hospitality establishments don’t ever have the opportunity to have their colleagues from around the country and the world come and enjoy their brand of hospitality en masse.

We all have specific or special memories of Classics past. What are two or three of those for you?

1. We created the premium cocktail exhibition, that debuted in 1998, as the first presentation of spirits and cocktails in the grand tasting tent as we changed the complexion of the classic. It was also at that time that the current Mezcal market was born by featuring Ron Cooper and Del Maguey Mezcals at our exhibition and showing ultra-high quality artisanal Mezcal to the world. This would have been our 23rd year in the grand tasting tent.

2. The launch of Mini-Jimmy’s in 2012. Co-created by Tobin Ellis of Bar Magic, Las Vegas. Mini-Jimmy’s has been recognized as the World’s Smallest Speakeasy and over the years has hosted every notable participant of the classic. Over the past eight years, Mini-Jimmy’s has been a special place for people to enjoy a private drink or engage in a spirits tasting hosted by Jessica, Chris, Greg or myself. Jessica is our GM and Partner, Chris is our Bar Manager, and Greg is our Wine and Beverage Director.

3. Our Late Saturday Night/Early Sunday morning anniversary breakfasts, a tradition since 1997. Our official/unofficial anniversary is always Saturday night of the classic. On June 14, I997, before we opened our dining room the following Wednesday, we hosted a “whisper” party with the help of Josh Wesson, Jimmy Bradley and Steve Olson, who whispered that their friend Jimmy was having a few people over for drinks after the top 10 chefs dinner to break in the bar at his upcoming restaurant. The ruse was set into motion and we hosted over 700 people for drinks that Saturday night. It was a success! After everyone left the early morning inaugural breakfast ensued. Sunday sunrise was how we knew it was time to go home.

What has changed in your business since we have started to reopen?

Everything and nothing. We have adapted our service standards to accommodate the necessary protocols to operate safely for our guests and staff members. We wear masks, offer touchless menu and payment options, sanitize surfaces thoroughly after each guest finishes, installed foot pulls for guests to open doors without using door knobs, take employee temperatures prior to service, and have spaced our dining tables accordingly.

At the end of the day, nothing has changed in the way we welcome our guests into our restaurant as hospitality is not controlled or changed by physical distancing or enhanced sanitary controls.

How can the food and wine worlds emerge stronger from this period of time?

The number one way we can emerge stronger is to take this time to reset many of the social and business norms when it comes to how our businesses operate from the inside. There are many systemic inequalities in our industry and we need to take a hard look at how to best evolve and create a better and more mature way of having a sustainable business. This crisis showed us how fragile our economic model is and how quickly we broke down. Our industry, including our supply chains, needs to offer a stable ecosystem for our employees to build a future upon.

What has been the biggest thing the community has done to support you since all this began?

It’s hard to pick just one, because the community support has been so heartwarming and amazing. Our customers have been incredibly generous. One stand-out is the mother of one of our employees purchased $200 worth of gift cards and asked us to give them to people we think could use a free meal during this time. We’ve had guests from around the country purchase gift cards to support us, and people we know who don’t have endless financial resources have also done what they can to help. Most of our guests are being patient, understanding of how difficult this time has been, and are caring for our staff by tipping generously. We are so grateful for all of it and proud to have been part of the community for the past 23 years.

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