The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen isn’t just an opportunity to rub elbows with big-name chefs, master sommeliers, and restaurateurs, it’s also a wealth of information. Here, my favorite tidbits from the three action-packed days of seminars, the American Express Restaurant Trade Program, and the grand tastings.

On restaurant expansion: “Prune is a feeling. It’s a good place…it’s a beating heart—my heart…it can’t be replicated.” Gabrielle Hamilton, chef-owner of Prune in New York City and author of Prune the cookbook and Blood, Bones, & Butter

On advice for the first-time restaurateur: “Make it matter.” Michael White, chef-owner of multiple restaurants, including Marea (two Michelin stars) and Ai Fiori (one Michelin star) in New York City

On opening an airport restaurant: “When I die, my tombstone will say only one thing: ‘He made good food in an airport.’” Rick Bayless, chef-owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo (and others) in Chicago; TV personality

On location: “[I opened another Poole’s after] looking at my city and seeing a block that needed to be activated. [And asking the question] Will other people take a chance on this block because we did.” Ashley Christensen, James Beard-award winning chef-owner of Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken & Honey, and other restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina

On entering the fast casual sector: “How can we get this to more people. How can we lower the price but still deliver quality ingredients? If people have to eat fast casual now, let’s give them a great product.” Bobby Stuckey, master sommelier, co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine and Pizzeria Locale

On the fine casual movement: “Chains were the best Xerox machines in the world. And we [the independent restaurants] were the best documents to scan.” Danny Meyer, New York City restaurateur, owner of Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack, and more; author

On signature dishes: “It’s very important that we don’t have a signature dish. One after another we get rid of dishes so we’re not stuck in time.” Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin (three Michelin stars), cookbook author, and TV personality

On inspiration: “What’s the difference between a chef and a cook? A chef inspires, a chef teaches.” Zoi Antonitsas, Food & Wine Best New Chef, Top Chef contestant, and executive chef at Westward in Seattle

On ingredients: “Sometimes organic isn’t as beautiful but it tastes better….Hydroponic tomatoes and basil look beautiful but they’re like the wicked witch’s apple—they taste terrible.” Bryce Shuman, Best New Chef, executive chef at Betony in New York City

On cooking: “Listen to your food. Listen to the bubbles. Are they bursting and snapping? The bigger the bubbles the more caramelization that’s happening.” Jamie Bissonnette, chef and co-owner Coppa and Toro in Boston

On technology: “I got in trouble for saying that the internet made everything taste the same. Knowing what to cook and what’s cool—that used to take years. You used to have to use your imagination, you used to have to fail. I want young cooks to take more chances. They know more about food than ever but they need to remind themselves that it’s a craft.” David Chang, chef-owner of Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Má Pêche, Milk Bar, and Momofuku Ko; cookbook author; co-founder of Lucky Peach

On trends in restaurants: “Single-subject restaurants show expertise. I see that hurtling forward. Forty years ago, there was just one type of restaurant…we’re diversifying restaurants.” Andrew Zimmern, TV personality, chef, food writer

On what’s next: “At Food & Wine, we obsess over the next ingredient, the next flavor. Sometimes a neighborhood is an ingredient. It’s not always kale.” Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief, Food & Wine magazine and cookbook author

On the effect of food: “Food and culinary leadership will change neighborhoods in our country.” Marcus Samuelsson, chef-owner Red Rooster, Street Bird, and others, cookbook author

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—Photography by Galdones Photography/FOOD & WINE

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.