New restaurant will feature magazine’s ‘Best New Chefs’
Food & Wine magazine has partnered with the St. Regis Aspen Resort to launch the publication’s first restaurant featuring its “Best New Chefs.”
The new restaurant, called the Chefs Club, will be in the old Whiskey Rocks location off of the hotel’s Mill Street side. It is scheduled to open in June, the day the 30th annual Food & Wine Classic kicks off.
The St. Regis has been the classic’s “host hotel” for years, and the latest partnership with the magazine and its new restaurant concept just strengthens the relationship in Aspen, said Kristi Kavanaugh-Bradley, director of sales and marketing of the St. Regis Aspen.
“The restaurant brings to life the culinary arts in Aspen,” she said. “It just makes sense. ... It just suits Aspen.”
The magazine’s signature “Best New Chefs Awards” platform honors the country’s most promising up-and-coming chefs. The magazine will choose which chefs will curate a seasonal menu. It’s expected that the chefs will make guest appearances for four to five days in the hotel restaurant.
George Mendes (2011) of Aldea in New York, N.Y.; James Lewis (2011) of Bettola, Birmingham, Ala.; Alex Seidel (2010) of Fruition, Denver; and Sue Zemanick (2008) of Gautreau’s in New Orleans have been chosen to inaugurate the menu, which will rotate bi-annually. These chefs will be in attendance at this year’s classic in Aspen.
Kavanaugh-Bradley said throughout the year, selected chefs will be in the restaurant individually, cooking special dishes for guests, performing demonstrations and leading epicurean classes, among other things.
“It will play to their strengths,” she said.
The concept was brought to Food & Wine magazine by the ownership of the hotel, Bangkok-based OptAsia Capital, shortly after it bought the property in September 2010.
“Food & Wine and St. Regis Aspen Resort have been talking about creating a restaurant leveraging the Food & Wine Best New Chefs for some time,” said Christina Grdovic, vice president and publisher of the magazine, in a prepared statement. “Our brands share the same values when it comes to innovation and passion for the epicurean way of life.”
The next group of Best New Chefs, including recipients of the recently announced Best New Chef class of 2012, will be selected later this year to curate the fall/winter menu, which will launch in November.
Food & Wine magazine editors will create custom wine and cocktail lists to coincide with the seasonally rotating menu. The magazine’s executive wine editor, Ray Isle, along with St. Regis Aspen sommelier LeeAnn Kaufman, will pair wines with the Best New Chef dishes. Jim Meehan, one of the nation’s top mixologists and a contributing editor to the magazine, will craft a selection of cocktails.
Paul Duce is the Chefs Club general manager, recently joining the St. Regis team with a Four Seasons background. An offer has been made to a chef but no announcement has been made.
The new restaurant is under construction. When it’s complete, it will feature a new, oversized bar, have seating for about 120 inside and another 80 in the outdoor courtyard, and its own kitchen, which will be open enough to see preparation of the dishes.
The St. Regis’ previous restaurant on the opposite side of the hotel, which for years was called Olives, will become a breakfast room for guests, as well as used for banquets, catering and meeting space.
Olives, which changed to The Restaurant, had struggled with brand identity and was located off the beaten path of the hotel, said St. Regis Aspen General Manager Senih Geray.
“I think we always felt our restaurant was hidden in the back,” he said, adding it also doesn’t have access to the outdoor courtyard.
When it changed from Olives, the restaurant never reached the critical mass the hotel had hoped for.
“The gap between wasn’t supposed to be there” between restaurant concepts, Geray said. The original plan was for the St. Regis to bring in a celebrity chef and reinvest in the restaurant. But then the recession hit and plans were shelved, he added.
Then a new owner — and a new vision — changed the plan entirely. (The St. Regis is nearly finished with a $40 million redesign of the property.)
“They took it and went with it,” Geray said, adding that, looking back, it was probably best that the original restaurant plan was put on hold.
“Whatever we would have had would be something that would already be old,” he laughed.