The 35th Annual Food & Wine Classic, Through the Eyes of Chef Julia Sullivan

The 35th Annual Food & Wine Classic, Through the Eyes of Chef Julia Sullivan

Henrietta Red’s Executive Chef Julia Sullivan has had a whirlwind of a year.  Having just opened Henrietta Red in February 2017, Julia - alongside general manager and co-owner Allie Poindexter - have taken the restaurant community by storm.  Since opening, Henrietta Red has been named as one of America’s Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit, nominated as a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, and included in GQ’s annual list of the 13 Best New Restaurants in America.  Most recently, Julia was honored as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s annual list of America’s Best New Chefs - a highly revered (and highly coveted!) acknowledgement.  As part of the process, each winner is invited to Aspen Food & Wine — THE culinary event of all culinary events.   

We asked Julia, with Allie and Max [Goldberg - co-owner of Strategic Hospitality and longtime friend of Julia’s] in tow, to document her travels, taking us along for the ride of an action-packed four days in scenic Aspen, Co.


Field Report: 35th Annual Food & Wine Classic, Aspen, Colorado

by Julia Sullivan

“I’m talkin’ about a place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talkin’ about a little place called Aspen.”
— Lloyd Christmas, Dumb and Dumber
 From left to right: Allie, Julia and Max

From left to right: Allie, Julia and Max

Last weekend Allie, Max, and I had the distinct pleasure of traveling to the 35th Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, CO to celebrate the 2018 Class of Food & Wine Best New Chefs.

This marks the 30th anniversary of F&W Best New Chefs – a tradition started in 1988 with Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, amongst others – now a family of 323, including the likes of Nancy Silverton, Traci Des Jardins, Suzanne Goin, Dan Barber, Jonathan Benno, and Josh Habiger (hey, we know him!) to name a few.

The honor is beyond words – to be considered among this exceptional group and to be named a Best New Chef with this particular class of kind, fun-loving, talented people is a moment I’ll never forget.

The Classic is a typical festival in the sense that there is a Grand Tasting (where the footprint of wine and spirits heartily outweighs the presence of food), cooking demos, wine tastings, book signings, panel discussions, and dine-arounds. What seems to set this festival apart is the setting, the level of talent, and the parties, parties, parties. Needless to say – we were stoked about the trip!

We balanced our time between tastings, parties, and marvelous Aspen scenery. For first timers, I’d say we nailed it.

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Hotels

- The St. Regis -  

Guests of F&W were housed at the top tier St. Regis Resort in Aspen. This was also the site of our prep kitchen and most of the official festival programming outside of the Grand Tasting. The hospitality was outstanding and it always helps to have a home base for the course of these hectic weekends (not to mention a heated pool for late night hangs).

- Hotel Jerome - 

Max stayed down the road in the ultra-hip, Aspen-meets-Brooklyn, Hotel Jerome (another festival partner). No shortage of plaid-clad walls and animal horns – also, great bar snacks!

Festival Events

- Grand Tasting -  

The Grand Tasting was characteristically boozy so the draw for us was all about the Best New Chefs. Two chefs were scheduled each morning and afternoon. Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt (Soup au Pistou) kicked it off with Jonathan Yao (Drunken Geoduck), followed by myself (Poppy’s Caviar) and Liz Johnson (Half Sour Salad). The next morning Brady Williams (Carrots with Yubeshi Beans and Onions) and unrelated Kate Williams (Lamb Tartare Detroit Coney) knocked it out of the park. I regret missing all-stars Michael Gallina (Watermelon Tartlette) and Katianna Hong (Chiorizo Bolognese) in the afternoon – I hear their dishes were dynamite. Rounding out the group was Diana Diavala (Octopus con Mole Verde) and Kevin Tien (Salmon Crudo with Nuoc Cham). It’s impossible to pick a favorite but there were some uniquely satisfying standouts.

Check out the full lineup of Food & Wine Best New Chefs: Class 2018
 

- American Express Restaurant Trade Program (Trade Only) - 

Panel Discussion ‘The Journey’ (featuring Gabrielle Hamilton, Will Guidara, Hugh Acheson, Traci des Jardins and moderated by F&W Editor Hunter Lewis): Quite the spicy industry panel given the recent news of Gabrielle Hamilton but I’ll save my opinions for another blog post… What I will say is how refreshing it is that some festivals provide growth-oriented programming for ‘talent’. It’s nice to feel taken care of when you take time away from your home and restaurant to participate in these events. Recent topics I’ve seen range from growing your business to self-care and mental health – all valuable content! As for this one – there wasn’t a knife sharp enough in Aspen to cut the tension in the room.

- F&W Best New Restaurants Farewell Brunch –

The food at this event was definitely a highlight. From June Baby (Seattle) to Maydan (DC) to Grand Café (Minneapolis), every dish hit the spot.

Parties

Most of the parties we attended were hosted by Food & Wine. This was an exciting opportunity to network with chefs and other guests of the magazine. There were three highlights for me:

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- Fiesta de Peru Mountaintop Party - 

Friday night, Food & Wine took everyone to the top of Aspen Mountain. We rode the Gondola up with the Jordana Rothman and some of the BNC crew. The air was thin but the views were absolutely stunning!

- Houston’s Coming to Party –

A house party, hosted by 2013 BNC Chris Shepard from Underbelly Hospitality and Regalis Foods, this was an insane affair complete with live tuna breakdown resulting in ultra-fresh hand rolls topped with uni and caviar. The DJ was great, the drinks were flowing, and the food was over the top.

- Live from the F&W Classic in Aspen: Saved by the 90s –

An epic 90s cover show at Belly Up that had every chef in Aspen on the dancefloor. This was a particularly fun bonding moment for the Best New Chefs! What a blast

Activities

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- Hikes -

Aspen is a stunningly beautiful town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. In the winter, you hit the slopes. In the summer, you hike, mountain bike, cycle, raft, etc. Luckily we had a list of hikes from our friend, Jonathan Waxman. We stuck to the options closest to town since our schedule was action-packed. The first try was the Ute trail – a winding climb on the Southside of Aspen. The second attempt was a far more picturesque ramble along Hunter Creek and Smuggler Mountain, with white water along most of the hike. If we make it out again, I’ve heard Marroon Belles is the one to do – can you tell I’m already thinking about next year?

- Whitewater Rafting - 

At the suggestion of our friend, Brady Williams, from Canils, we decided to book a whitewater rafting trip for the Best New Chefs through Aspen Whitewater. The guides did a terrific job of briefing us for the trip. We were amped up for The River Wild but unfortunately, because of minimal snowfall last winter, the water level was fairly low and the ride was pretty tame. That’s not to say we didn’t have a blast cutting up in the boats all afternoon.

Restaurants 

- Clark’s Oyster Bar –

McGuire Moorman Hospitality out of Austin, TX recently opened its second location of Clark’s Oyster Bar. This location is a fun, mountain twist on a classic raw bar feel. The menu features a full raw bar with oysters, shrimp cocktail, creative crudos, and bright ceviches, as well as tasty classics like a wedge salad, clam chowder, and a substantial lobster roll. We ate there twice (can you tell we like oysters?). This was the best meal we had in Aspen and it had only been open four days!

- Grey Lady - 

Named for the Nantucket fog, Grey Lady is a New England style bar, 20-yards from the Grand Tasting. We went there for lunch before the festivities. The Bloody Mary’s were fantastic. The food was less impressive – unfortunately at Aspen prices.

- Rosenberg’s Bagels Delicatessen -  

This Denver based bagel shop popped up at Aspen Kitchen, just above the Saturday Farmer’s Market. Allie and I went in for breakfast and split three bagel sandwiches. The bagels were great and generously topped with hot pastrami and tasty smoked salmon.

Shopping

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No shopping for us this trip, except a very close call Max had with a $720 cowboy hat. He almost took the plunge in Aspen, after all those years on Broadway.

Was that an action-packed weekend, or what?!  It was an experience I will never forget. As if being named Best New Chef isn’t enough, I gained so many new friends and experiences...making it all the better. 

 

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