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High Altitudes, Orange Crocks, French Laundry & Tequila at Jimmy’s

 

2:27am, three minutes before my alarm clock starts blaring, I wake up staring at the ceiling. Ten minutes later, I am looking for toast and/or anything to eat in my grandma’s kitchen. By 3:45am it is time to go and my shoes have disappeared from beneath the kitchen table. At 4:30am, we are cruising down the empty highway towards Sacramento, CA. By 4:55am we have arrived, and by 5:55am we’re ready for take off! At 12:23pm, the Santé team is assembled and on its way in small red Dollar Rental Ford from Denver to Aspen, Colorado. Currently enjoying being tossed from side to side as the team traverses snow covered peaks, through Ledville and Basalt for a four hour drive to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Take a deep breath, inhale the thin air, and hold on to your MacBooks!

 

I first heard about the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen fifteen years ago. Santé, my father’s magazine, has been attending since 1996 and for over a decade I have been catching bits and pieces of stories. From epic pork roasts, to ice sculpture pool parties, to tents containing hundreds of exhibitors pouring over a thousand different wines and dishing up samples of Alaskan seafood and Maui Jims, I have been fantasizing about Aspen. This year, for Food & Wine Classic’s 32nd anniversary, I am graced with the opportunity to attend world class chef cook-offs, late night dessert parties, mixologist round ups, wine & cocktail after-hours events, trade shows and seminars, media mixers…the list goes on…I will be blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagraming my experiences eating, drinking, and meeting trade experts from around the world at the epicenter of America’s top hospitality gathering. I am honored to attend.

 

A Brief History on the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen:

In 1983, The Aspen/Snowmass International Wine Classic, brainchild of Gary Plumley, The Grape & Grain, and Bob and Ruth Kevan, Chez Grandmere, attracted over 300 people.Three years later, in partnership with Plumley and Kevan, Food & Wine Magazine became the official sponsor of the Classic. The name changed to The Aspen/Snowmass Food & Wine Classic and the festival expanded to include celebrity chefs, guest speakers, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting seminars, and international exhibitors. Food & Wine Magazine introduced “America’s Best New Chefs” award in 1988 and by 1989 almost 2,000 people were in attendance. In 1992,  the Aspen/Snowmass Food & Wine Classic changed to the Aspen Food & Wine Classic as the event outgrew its venue in Snowmass Village and moved to Aspen for its 10th anniversary. In 1995, the Classic attracted over 5,000 people, a record attendance.

 

The Classic’s International Pavilion includes expert international food and wine exhibitors from countries such as Portugal, Canada, France, Ireland, and Mexico. For its 25th anniversary in 2007, The Food & Wine Classic hostedits first ever charity event, Grow for Good, pledging $1 million in support of the national Farm to Table and sustainable agriculture initiative.

In the past, guest speakers and celebrity chefs have included Wolfgang Puck, Michael Pieton, Emril Lagasse, Jacques Pépin, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Jacques Torrés, Danny Meyer, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Giada De Laurentiis, Ming Tsai, José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, Tom Colicchio, and Andrew Zimmern, to name a few.

Special events and seminars have included feature speaker Julia Child in 1990, Jacques Pépin’s Father’s Day Feast with his daughter Claudine in 2001, The Perfect Cocktail Party with Tony Abou-Ganim in 2006, the first-ever live music concert by Elvis Costello and the 5K celebrity chef race with Bobby Flay in 2012, and a mountain top dinner with Thomas Keller, Daniel Boloud, John Besh, and David Chang in 2013.

The Food and Wine Classic has received press coverage from The New York Times, Good Morning America, and numerous other outlets.

 

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen 2014:

This year American Express will host its 25th annual American Express Restaurant Trade Program, offering exclusive seminars, media opportunities, and events to members of the trade and press. Events will include the José Andrés and Wines From Spain Party on Thursday, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Charity 5k, Goose Island Beer Breakfast and Peru Reception at the Limelight Hotel, and the Last-Bite Late-Night Dessert Party hosted by Gail Simmons on Friday. Southern Wine & Spirits will host a party on the river and Stella Artois will feature its beers during happy hour on Saturday. Also on Saturday, events such as Wonderland at the Classic and Live from the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen will take place. The Classic will conclude with the Classic Cook-Off and Grand Cochon party on Sunday. Available all weekend will be exhibitor tables in the tasting tents and Amex Trade Program events and seminars.  Tickets for 2014 sold out in February, a record for the Classic.

All writing and images are of the author’s own work and opinion unless otherwise stated.

 

Sources:

“Food & Wine Classic in Aspen 2014.” Food & Wine. Food & Wine Magazine, n.d. Web. 20 June 2014. http://www.foodandwine.com/classic"

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