The 2009 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen: Day 2 Keeps On Going!


Later in the afternoon, after I attended Ming Tsai’s demonstration, I had a chance to sit in on a cooking demonstration from Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons and Chef Tom Colicchio – also well known for their appearances on Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ and ‘Top Chef Masters’.

Food & Wine's Gail Simmons mixes a drink as Chef Tom Colicchio looks on.

Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons mixes a drink as Chef Tom Colicchio looks on.

Side by side, Gail mixed up an ‘East Meets West’ adaptation, which included citrus vodka, Grand Marnier, strawberries, and lychees, while Tom worked on a fabulous Spiced Lobster with Pea Ravioli. As Gail muddled her strawberries, Tom joked that you should “crush them to a pulp, kinda like what we do to the chefs on the show.”

Gail started to toss together her Cavatappi with Shrimp, Peas, and Sugar Snaps, noting, “Caress and love your garlic, and it will love you back.” Tom’s suggestion for cooking lobster included separating the claws and body and wrapping them in plastic before throwing them into boiling water, as this prevents the water from soaking the lobster meat.

As the chefs cooked, they talked about their experiences, and how they made it to where they are. Gail’s mom, who was in attendance all weekend, was a food writer and cooking teacher as she was growing up, leading Gail to write restaurant reviews for her college newspaper. Gail even attended culinary school, working in New York’s Le Cirque and others before making her way to Food & Wine Magazine.

Chef Tom Colicchio cooks at 2009 Aspen Food & Wine Classic.

Chef Tom Colicchio cooks at 2009 Aspen Food & Wine Classic.

Tom’s father encouraged him to become a chef when he was only fifteen years old, but sadly passed just before Tom took his first restaurant job. His influences include The French Laundry’s Thomas Keller and farm-driven pioneer Alice Waters. His most influential book? Jacques Pepin’s La Technique.

After the cooking demonstration, guests asked quite a few questions about Gail and Tom’s experiences on ‘Top Chef’. A few notables:

  • One of the contestants on the upcoming ‘Top Chef: Las Vegas’ actually took one of the Vegas casinos for $70,000 while they were in town filming!
  • The judges aren’t allowed to interact with any of the ‘Top Chef’ contestants during the filming season.
  • Oftentimes, it’s in the wee hours of the morning by the time they shoot the scenes from the Judges’ Table. As Gail mentioned, “That’s why we’re so cranky sometimes.”
  • ‘Top Chef’ contestants aren’t allowed any access to the outside world during the filming. This includes no phones, computers, or newspapers.

~Jennifer Heigl