Few mountain towns on Earth have a culinary pedigree like Aspen, Colorado. Much of this has to do with the prestige of its ski resort, the world-famous wine program at The Little Nell (where the annual Master Sommelier exam is held), and the Roaring Fork Valley’s close proximity to Colorado’s best orchards and farms in summer. Because of this, Aspen is a magnet for the world’s top culinary talent.
Oh, and it hosts the annual Food & Wine Classic in June.
Ask any chef who lives in Aspen about “the Classic” and they will tell you that the event raises their game. Put on by Food & Wine Magazine and attended by such culinary legends as Jacques Pépin, Tom Colicchio, Michelle Bernstein, David Chang and more, the three-day festival is the most prestigious food and wine event in North America.
Whether you are attending it this year (buy tickets here) or adding it to your bucket list for next, here is a definitive guide to attending The Classic.
Top 5 Things to Do
Truth be told, the Grand Tastings top the list every year. Taking up the entirety of Wagner Park and held in the late mornings and late afternoons of each day, the Grand Tastings offer event-goers the chance to rub elbows with the nation’s best chefs, sample their food, and discover new spirits for their wet bar and new wines to add to their cellar.
Attend “A Meal from Provence”
Whether it was serving as a personal chef to Charles de Gaulle or becoming one of TV’s first celebrity chefs alongside Julia Child, Jacques Pépin is the quintessential taste-maker. This seminar on Friday gives attendees the chance to learn family recipes straight from Jacques and his daughter, the acclaimed chef Claudine Pépin.
Attend One of the Two Seminars with Anthony Giglio
Wine expert Anthony Giglio always packs them in at the Food & Wine Classic. His disarming style, wit and sense of humor bring wine education to life in a unique way. His two seminars this year — Breakfast of Champions: Spanish Edition and Italian Happy Hour Cocktails — promise to be enlightening for attendees.
In the Kitchen With the Top Chef Winner
Fans of Bravo’s long-standing hit Top Chef know one thing: the winner gets a showcase at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Here’s your chance to see first-hand why Tom, Padma, Gail and Richard gave them the title of Top Chef.
Get Tickets to Heritage Fire Snowmass
As the tents start to come down Sunday evening, the party shifts from the Food & Wine Classic to Heritage Fire Snowmass, which is essentially the Stanley Cup of Pig. All year long, Cochon 555 has held regional cook-offs featuring some of the nation’s hottest chefs. If you are hungry for more after three days of the Classic, get tickets to the finals, and see who gets crowned as the master of all things pork.
Navigating the Event
Calling the Food & Wine Classic a bacchanal would not be far off. In several seminars, you’ll sip your way through a flight of wines or taste a half dozen small plates, then at the Grand Tasting, you can literally gorge to your heart (or stomach’s) delight. So take it easy. Be thoughtful on what you really want to sample, and between sessions, go for a long walk and enjoy the crisp mountain air. You’ll enjoy the event a whole lot more by pacing yourself.
Every event and seminar at the Classic is held within a few blocks of Wagner Park, so its best to get around on foot. If you are staying outside of downtown Aspen, such as Snowmass Village, utilize a driver service or even the efficient and clean RFTA public transit shuttles. Given the parking situation during the event — and the wine and cocktails you are likely to imbibe — there is no reason to get behind the wheel.
Where to Stay
Inspirato’s collection of vacation rentals in Aspen and Snowmass may be booked for this year’s event, but they make a great base of operations for future years, particularly Encore and Silver Queen which are steps away from the event’s epicenter at Wagner Park.