Chefs love to travel — for inspiration, to experience the cuisines of other cultures or just to get away from the heat of their own kitchens. When they return, we hit them with some questions — where'd they stay, what'd they do and WHAT DID THEY EAT?!
David Burke certainly needs no introduction. The culinary pioneer is one of the most celebrated names in American cooking, credited with inventing and developing several kitchen techniques over the past two decades. The owner of eight well-liked restaurants, ranging from a steakhouse to a seafood haven to a fromagerie to a bacon bar (yes, a bacon bar), Burke has racked up numerous accolades in his illustrious career. The New Jersey-born chef remains a fixture in the tri-state area's dining scene, and recently took some time out to chat with us about his recent travels to Aspen. Here, he shares advice on the city's top meals, blossoming art scene and best people-watching spot.
Where are you just back from?
Was it business or pleasure?
I always try and combine the two. Aspen can never be only about business!
How often do you travel for inspiration?
I travel a lot and find opportunities to be inspired by food, museums, architecture, history and culture. Even just walking around New York, I find the city’s restaurants, shops and – definitely – people, inspiring.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Dining and shopping in galleries. Aspen has a great local art scene and world-class galleries, from painting to sculpture and the dining scene has been evolving with several new restaurants opening over the last year. The Vickers Collection always has a nice mix of established and new artists, and the Christopher Martin Gallery shows the artist’s unusual “reverse-glass” paintings. A Filson store, with cool rugged housewares and clothing (great gifts!) just opened in Aspen, the first outside the Pacific Northwest. I like to stop in Kemo Sabe too, just to look at the cowboy boots and hats. They are like works of art.
That I had to leave.
What airline(s) did you fly and how was it?
United and it was great. They have the most flights directly into Aspen. Winter tip: Take the first flight out (7 a.m.) to avoid potential weather delays. Even though it’s only a 45-minute flight to Denver, skipping the Denver – Aspen drive in the winter season is always worth it.
Where'd you stay and what's your mini-review of the place?
The Little Nell. It was, and always is, a 5-star experience. Reserve a Mountainside room and sit by your fire, watching the skiers come down the mountain through the window. The service is also top-notch: they always find ways to make your stay extra special. While I didn’t ski this trip, it’s the only ski-in/out hotel in Aspen and their Ajax Tavern is a great spot at the bottom of the ski mountain for après or a late lunch. Great people watching, always.
What was your best meal on the trip?
Steakhouse 316 and Jimmy’s. Surprisingly, Steakhouse 316 is the only true steakhouse in Aspen. It is owned by longtime Aspen restaurateurs Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce, who wanted to bring that New York steakhouse feel to Aspen. It’s dark and moody with a great bar and classic steakhouse cuts, like the 24-ounce Prime Porterhouse. Jimmy’s is an Aspen institution. The restaurant is known for its incredible selection of tequilas and mescal, as well as their famous crab cakes. It is always a scene at the bar with a nice blend of locals and tourists alike.
Will you incorporate anything from your trip on your restaurants’ menu?
I tasted a number of Colorado beers, including those from Aspen Brewing Company, as well as some excellent spirits, including the new vodka from Woody Creek Distillers. Next trip, I am going to taste more of the Colorado cheeses.
Where do you want to travel to next, and why?
I am looking forward to heading to Maui this summer!
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