A gastronomic treat: Preview the nation's top food and wine fest
June 7, 1999
CNN Interactive Food Editor
(CNN) -- Aspen in off-season will be bubbling this weekend as the mountain town hosts the Food and Wine Magazine Classic, considered the premier food fest for the nation's foodies and wine fans.
The classic, in its 17th year, is a festival of seminars for all that is trendy and hip in a world where chefs are fast notching up to supermodel status.
"We go with what is popular. Chefs on TV are always a big hit," said Kate Krader, senior Foods editor at Food & Wine magazine.
Between classes are wine-tasting study breaks, with five "Grand Tastings" showcasing wineries from around the world.
Classic organizer Chris Grdovic said the magazine's editorial department sticks with the classic and traditional when choosing seminar topics, while mixing in new trends. This year's offerings include "The Cheese Course," "Asian Flavors," "The Mysteries of Sake."
Grdovic says chefs and wine experts mingle with the crowd of 5,000. "Aspen is a little town. The chefs are really accessible, not prima donnas."
Good thing, because the classic boasts some of the best -- instructors Jacques Pepin, grill guru and Food Network host Bobby Flay, the "Two Hot Tamales" team of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken.
The festival hosts more than seasoned pros. For some it is a chance at a grand national debut -- among them, 10 chefs named "Best New Chefs" last month by Food & Wine magazine, who will present a dinner for about 800 people.
For chef John Besh, his coming out at Food & Wine relies on a salad -- local breaded goat cheese with pureed rosemary stewed plums with a thin slice of prosciutto, topped with endive frisee and a lavender-honey vinaigrette.
The 31-year-old is executive chef of Artesia in Abita Springs, Louisiana, a restaurant in an old spa resort 45 minutes north of New Orleans.
Besh grew up in Louisiana. "I always swore I'd never return," he said.
But after traveling the world, he did. He worked and trained in New York and Germany and was called out of culinary school to serve in the Gulf War with the Marines before settling in his home state several years ago.
The new chef award comes just two years after the restaurant's opening.
"To be recognized like this after years of working for other chefs -- it's incredible -- to be recognized as one of the few good cooks out there," Besh said.
The Food and Wine Classic will be a first for Besh, who has his own agenda for the festival.
"I have to meet Jacques Pepin, a hero of mine since I remember," he says. "Instead of looking up to ballplayers, I looked up to people like this."
It's not too late to attend the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen; the biggest obstacle is securing air transportation to town. Admission is $625 for the three-day festival, June 11 to 13. Call 1-888-9WINE99 for more information.
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