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Hot Trends, Lavish Parties, and Lessons from the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen

What happens in Aspen... is up for all to see here

Dan Wilby

The FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen unleashed its magic onto Colorado last weekend with celebrity chefs, interesting seminars, great cooking demonstrations, and plenty of wine and food to talk about for weeks to come. There were parties galore, some within the festival, some under the umbrella of the American Express Restaurant Trade Program, and some privately organized by various chefs and businesses.

(SOME OF) THE COOLEST THINGS THAT HAPPENED

Bravo’s Top Chef filmed one of its final episodes in an undisclosed location around Aspen where dozens of attendees were sworn to secrecy about what they saw and ate. Among them was a Denver mother-daughter party; the mom was surprised by the daughter with the weekend getaway to the Aspen fest.

Andrew Zimmern, chef and TV personality, played the French anthem for chef Ludo Lefebvre, a proud Frenchman, who was boasting on a panel about how things are done back in his motherland. It took a second for the audience to understand where the music was from but everyone got a kick out of Zimmern’s antics.

Celebrity chefs were everywhere from the free and open to the public 5k on Friday morning to the seminars and the late night parties and after after parties. Ming Tsai and Johnny Iuzzini close to 2 a.m. on Friday night getting their groovy dance on at Escobar.

A couple got engaged at the top of Aspen mountain right before the Height of Good Taste dinner that featured rock star chefs Bryan and Michael Voltaggio. Annie and Stephen were called up to the stage by FOOD & WINE editor in chief Nilou Motamed for official congratulations.

Jennifer Olson

The Grand Tasting tents has exhibitors pull out all the stops

FIVE QUOTES AND LESSONS FROM THE SEMINARS

Our partnership at Frasca is the most incredible thing. In business, find a great partner and enjoy the rollercoaster. Bobby Stuckey, Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, CO.

We have to stop blaming the tipping system for cooks not getting paid well. You can pay people the way you want to pay people, so we came up with our own system. We look at it as an investment in our people, in our culture, in the business. We are not going to be as profitable in the first couple of years, but for the first time in a decade, our chefs are not scratching to get cooks. Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality Group, NYC

As a chef, you need to educate the clientele on what to eat. Sometimes you guys, the diners, need to change. Ludo Lefevbre, Trois Mec, Petit Trois

A lot of good ideas in our world start with two things: a bottle of something and then next that question: Wouldn't it be cool if? Daniel and I made a promise to each other than whenever we said wouldn't it be cool if, no matter how ridiculous what came after was, we would at least give it a chance. Will Guidara, Eleven Madison Park

The real challenge of our generation of restaurants is to help producers sell more products. Anya Fernard, co-founder and CEO at Belcampo

THE TRENDS THAT DOMINATED

Desserts got their due on lavish displays from all corners. Milk Bar popped up in several locations with pastry queen Christina Tosi sharing cookies, cakes, and crack pies left and right. The NoMAD brought an ice cream truck to cool off the crowds. And chocolates, cake pops, cupcakes, and tequila lollipops seemed to be everywhere from the tents to the parties.

Cans are all the rage for wine and other things too.

Wine makers shows off seriously blinged-out wine bottles, some inspired by art, others inspired by TV shows, others yet just by sparkles.

Cold brew was everywhere.

Jennifer Olson

Caviar works on everything, from spaghetti to egg yolk gnocchi.

Jennifer Olson

THE PARTIES

No matter which way you skin the cat, the parties are the best thing about the FOOD & WINE Classic. Below find scenes from some of the festival’s most exciting parties.

The American Express Restaurant Trade Program, limited to Trade Pass Holders, featuring Eleven Madison Park and Milk Bar

Chicago chef Sarah Grueneberg and sommelier Belinda Chang hosted the second annual Great Aspen Pool Party, featuring Champagne, caviar and spaghetti, plus and Fords Gin & Tonics.

Open Table rocked Saturday night with Champagne and sushi at Matsuhisa

Dubai in the Sky was the title of the official 35th anniversary party of the Classic at the top of Aspen Mountain.

The American Express Restaurant Trade Program lunch took place at Herron Park and featured Blackberry Farm

A late night invite-only Patrón party featured chef Richard Blais

The Height of Good Taste, the Saturday night event at the top of Aspen Mountain featured chefs Bryan and Michael Voltaggio

Chicago chef Stephanie Izard hosted a three day event at the American Express Platinum House where the attractions were numerous, from SoulCycle and meditation sessions to blowouts by DryBar and continuous food and drinks, morning, noon, night, and late night.

Next year’s festival will take place from June 15 through June 17.

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