Preview: 2012 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

By
Over 500 chefs and other foodservice people are converging in Aspen

This is part of NRN's special coverage of the 2012 Food & Wine Classic held in Aspen, Colo., June 15-17. Follow all of our coverage at NRN's 'Aspen Food & Wine Classic' section.

An estimated 500 chefs, restaurateurs, food and beverage directors, and other members of the foodservice industry are converging on Aspen, Colo., this weekend, along with about 1,500 other consumers, for the grandfather of food festivals, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

Now in its 30th year, this celebration of all things that can be eaten or drunk features wine seminars, cooking demonstrations, a “Grand Tasting” tent of food and drink, celebrity chef elbow-rubbing, and all the other associated activities, often involving alcohol and fried foods, that can be found at a food festival.

But unlike at other gastronomic celebrations, while members of the general public attend cooking demonstrations by Bobby Flay, taste Rieslings with James Beard Award-winning wine professional Paul Grieco, and learn food secrets from Giada De Laurentiis, industry insiders will be cloistered at the Jerome Hotel for the 23rd annual American Express Restaurant Trade program.

“For over two decades, American Express has supported and strengthened the restaurant industry year round through initiatives like the Restaurant Trade Program,” Curtis Wilson, vice president and general manager of the Restaurant and Lodging Industries Group at American Express, said in a press release. “As an ongoing advocate and business partner to the restaurant industry, the Trade Program is an extension of the value American Express brings to this sector, and we are proud to present this unique experience and celebrate the individuals who shape the world of hospitality.”

Following a kick-off party on Thursday at Matsuhisa, nightlife-loving restaurateurs will start bright and early on Friday morning with a 9:15 a.m. panel on modern marketing techniques, including social media. Washington, D.C.-based chef-restaurateur José Andrés of Think Food Group, Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, and Bernardo Hernandez, director of product management at Zagat (now owned by Google), will share their insights.

Next, celebrity chefs Tim Love, Spike Mendelsohn, Jacques Pépin and Ming Tsai will discuss how television appearances can affect business in a panel titled “Fame Game: The Reality of TV.”

On Saturday, Niki Leondakis, president of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants in San Francisco, and chefs and local/seasonal food advocates John Besh, Sean Brock and Michel Nischan, discuss the farm-to-table movement.

Finally, John Bettin, head of the Palm Restaurant; avant-garde Chicago-based chef Grant Achatz; Top Chef top judge and New York-based restaurateur Tom Colicchio; and Anita Lo, cookbook writer, celebrity chef and owner of Annisa in New York, will discuss how minor adjustments can result in major improvements to the bottom line in a panel titled “Restaurant Reset: Small Changes, Big Payoff.”

In addition, trade-only “Afternoon Saloons” will be held at Hotel Jerome, providing networking opportunities and an array of food and drink before departing for a night of parties thrown by wine and liquor companies. On Saturday, attendees will have the opportunity to attend a benefit concert headlined by Elvis Costello & The Blue Beguilers, for which proceeds will go to Food & Wine magazine’s Chefs Make Change charitable initiative, with a portion of ticket proceeds benefitting participating chefs’ designated charities.

Those participating chefs include José Andrés, Mario Batali and Michel Nischan.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary