Virtual Culinary Weekend to kick off Aspen’s traditional start to summer |

Virtual Culinary Weekend to kick off Aspen’s traditional start to summer

Staff report

kicking off summer

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

Aspen’s traditional kickoff to the summer isn’t happening in person this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something to mark the special weekend. It wouldn’t be Aspen’s style to just let the weekend pass by without any fanfare.

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. With a number of virtual events to mark the third weekend in June when Aspen usually celebrates all things wine and food, 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.

“Holding the space for what would normally be Food & Wine weekend and honoring the tradition of Aspen’s kickoff to summer is as important as ever right now as our local economy restarts and our valley-wide restaurant community gets back on two feet,” Aspen Times publisher Samantha Johnston said of producing the event. “In the spirit of taking care of our own, we’ll honor all of our local talent from dishwashers and servers to chefs and sommeliers and every other instrumental player in the restaurant ecosystem and we’ll host some really fun virtual events to keep the spirit alive until next year’s event can happen in person.”

Beginning with a Virtual Run (5K, 10K or 1-mile walk), online visitors from around the world can take a trot in their neighborhoods while thinking about a Rocky Mountain high. All who register will be making donations to the Aspen Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, and those donations will be earmarked specifically to provide economic assistance to Roaring Fork Valley restaurant workers. Go to to sign up for the race. All runners will be able to get custom medals — or more — as part of three tiers of participation.

Over what would have been the Classic weekend (June 19-21), The Aspen Times will host a series of Zoom and Facebook Live events featuring Aspen chefs, sommeliers and others cooking and hosting wine pairings. We will visit some of the favorite food and wine hangouts and have a few shout-outs from the Aspen restaurant community.

Some of our local favorites are participating virtually, including the Little Nell hotel’s culinary director Matt Zubrod with wine director Chris Dunaway; Wendy Mitchell, owner of Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop with sommelier Chris Schaetzle; Jimmy Yeager and sommelier Greg Van Wagner of Jimmy’s: An American Restaurant and Bar; wine expert and manager Johnny Ivansco from Sopris Liquor & Wine; and Troy Selby of the newly christened Silverpeak Grill.

“The kickoff to summer is always the Food & Wine Classic,” Mitchell said about the event, which began in Snowmass in 1983. “When people show up in Aspen with their lanyards and pastel suits and dresses, you know summer has arrived. It’s hard to know what this summer will bring, but at least we can try to emulate our traditional kickoff to summer while enjoying free-flowing rosé and talking about cheese.”

The Aspen restaurant scene continues to ride the pandemic with style and grace and a survival attitude. As public health orders loosen restrictions and restaurants gain more ability to serve their customers, the kickoff event will support the local restaurant community.

Stay tuned for more information, but for now to see what’s in store for the 2020 Summer Kickoff Virtual Culinary weekend, go to to check out the schedule and register for events.

“We hope to see our friends from around the globe sign up for the virtual run and give where they can so we can continue wrapping our community in love and support,” Johnston said. “While we’re starting to see economic recovery, we know that we’ve still got a big hill to climb.

“Our hats are off to all of the restauranteurs who have spent many sleepless nights finding new ways to do business and who have kept the doors open when the alternative may have been easier.”

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