This year’s Best New Chefs dinner was certainly the big event of the weekend at the 2010 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Last year’s evening of culinary stars was one of my favorite experiences, so I made sure to arrive early this year for plenty of photos and pre-mob food tasting. I also made sure to wear my comfortable shoes.
The showcase of Food & Wine’s 2010 Best New Chefs was held at the regal Aspen Meadows Resort, the same venue as last year’s event. As the sun set against the rolling green hills of Aspen, this year’s selected chefs showcased their individual talents in bite-sized bits for the hungry crowd.
The most anticipated dish, at least on my tasting tour, was from Chef Matt Lightner of Portland’s Castagna. Chosen as one of this year’s Best New Chefs, I had the pleasure of interviewing him in March when he was announced as a semifinalist nominee for the 2010 James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award. Lightner presented a little piece of the Pacific Northwest with his evening’s dish, featuring a sweet Walla Walla onion – a favorite ingredient in Oregon and Washington – with smelt roe and a BBQ onion glaze.
Another Northwest favorite was Jason Stratton of Seattle’s Spinasse. Securing the “Snappiest Dresser” award, Stratton brought great flare to the event while delivering an Aspen variation of a rabbit Russian salad with baby beets, peas, tuna maionesse, and pickled carrot.
Other dishes of the evening?
- Roy Choi of LA’s popular Kogi BBQ brought a tastebud-pleasing chego meatball with a sweet and spicy sauce and polenta puree.
- Virginia chef Clayton Miller served a country pork terrine with rye crumbs and pickled tomatillo.
- A Voce’s Missy Robbins had a strachiatella cheese with house cured lamb pancetta and grilled pickled ramps.
- Denver’s Alex Seidel presented an Irish Cream Farms baby lamb ribeye with an English pea and potato risotto.
- Michael Sheerin of Chicago’s Blackbird, backed by 1999 Best New Chef Paul Kahan, plated a mix of sepia noodles, fried chocolate, and cardamon tofu.
- John Shields, the evening’s second Best New Chef from Virginia, served a scrambled egg mousse with smoked steelhead roe, birch syrup, and preserved ramps.
- California’s James Syhabout brought a bite-sized Parmesan financier with unripe green strawberry conserve.
Beer in hand, I spent most of the evening on the rooftop, chatting with friends, watching as chefs, fans, and foodies alike mingled against the luscious natural Colorado backdrop. With a DJ spinning stellar tunes across the venue’s sound system, drinks from Classic sponsors Patron, Beringer, Bombay Sapphire, and Stella Artois were swilled and sipped until night stars lit up the sky.
And the crowd favorite? Ohio’s Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern. Beaming with an obvious sense of pride, Sawyer offered up a marvelous fromage blanc raviolini with small stewed tomatoes, with his wife (and #1 fan) never far from his side.
Each of this year’s Best New Chefs brought their best to the table for the event, making the evening yet another Food & Wine Classic success. And I swear, I only had three meatballs. Really.
Kudos to all of the 2010 Best New Chefs, Food & Wine magazine, and the outstandingly coordinated Classic team. On to 2011!
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender