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Food & Wine is a magazine with a simple mission: Through recipes, tips, and reports on trends, the goal is to teach home cooks to, well, cook better. But Food & Wine made a genius move in 1982 when it launched the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, an annual culinary event studded with big-name chefs that became an instant must-attend for foodies around the world. Then the magazine furthered its brand in perhaps its most successful way in 2006 when it partnered on the wildly successful Bravo reality show Top Chef. A dessert spin-off show, Top Chef: Just Desserts, followed in 2010.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that, coinciding with the Classic’s 30th anniversary this month (June 15–17), the evolution from straightforward culinary resource to multiplatform commercial brand continues: A restaurant located in the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Chefs Club by Food & Wine, is set to open its doors.
Chefs Club will call on a roster of four Food & Wine Best New Chefs (an honor bestowed upon 10 up-and-comers each year) to helm the kitchen. “For the past 24 years,” says editor-in-chief Dana Cowin, “[the Best New Chefs] have become an important part of the fabric of the brand.” The constant influx of young talent means new, original menus every six months, and for the chefs, it’s an opportunity to expand their own brands while collaborating with other rising stars.
Denver’s Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant, who was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2010, is one of the first toques to man the burners. For the summer menu, he joins George Mendes of Aldea in New York City, James Lewis of Bettola in Birmingham, Alabama, and Sue Zemanick of Gautreau’s in New Orleans. Seidel’s contributions include a small plate of smoked sturgeon salad on rye blini with egg mimosa and a beluga lentil vinaigrette, as well as an entrée of Colorado lamb saddle with Fruition Farms ricotta gnocchi, baby artichokes, and pine nut gremolata. The seasonal, ever-changing dishes are paired with wines chosen by Food & Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle and original cocktails by contributing editor and mixologist Jim Meehan.
Chefs Club is a restaurant of big names and big expectations, and there’s little doubt it will be an elusive dinner reservation to nab—both during the Classic and after. It’s also likely that Food & Wine is using this experience as a beta test for its next big venture.
SAVE THE DATE
It’s All About the Pig
So a festival pass to the Food & Wine Classic isn’t in the budget this year? No matter. On June 17 (Father’s Day), at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, the Grand Cochon event brings together winning chefs from a nationwide competition to prepare “snout-to-tail” menus from heritage breed pigs. Tickets are $200 and would make a mighty fine Father’s Day gift. cochon555.com