Joe Boches takes you behind the scenes of the Stanley's bustling dining room,
where a well-organized team of dedicated culinary professionals make it all
happen every day for the hotel's guests...
One of the neat things about being “Chef” is the right to change your mind. With that comes awesome responsibility. Aside from medicine, I can’t think of another profession where an unavoidable part of the job entails people putting things into their mouths to swallow. I’m not referring to TV chefs being sued by their partners, or chefs with certificates from boutique cooking schools, who might, with notes, make a few dishes for eight. I’m thinking about chefs who can construct a dinner for a few hundred people and most likely with helpers who don’t speak their native language.
There are more lawyers and physicians than there are American Culinary Foundation Certified Executive Chefs (66,000 when I last checked.)
This summer for a bit of R&R, plus some badly needed cash, I packed my fishing equipment, my knives and some chef coats, then met a few colleagues for an adventure in the Rockies. I joined a culinary SWAT team, orchestrated by Chef Mark DeNittis in the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
The challenge meant preparing food for weddings and banquets on top of a busy schedule of three meals a day served in the restaurant, plus room service and Sunday Brunch for hundreds, not to mention daily meals for 150 employees.
While this may not be a typical busman’s holiday, we sure had fun, especially when we could sneak off to wet a line in some of the fine trout waters in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.
Good chefs, who are culinary professionals, are passionate about their cooking and cuisine. We live it. The hours are too long and the work is too grueling for any less dedication. Students from the Denver campus of Johnson & Wales University were invited to participate and joined an international crew to live in dorms and help serve this busy hotel.
I was hired on as a consultant to help with staffing the hotel until a permanent executive chef was located. One of our Johnson & Wales group, Chef David Richmond, who has a strong international background with extensive experience in corporate food service management in Phoenix and San Francisco, was just recently named Executive Chef. He’s bringing a new world perspective to this grand dame hotel of Colorado.
The property is owned by the Grand Heritage Hotel Group, which operates other class acts including the Biltmore in Providence and Vanderbilt Hall, RI and the Pontchartrain in New Orleans. The Stanley’s General Manager, Ms.Tina Harlow, has recently brought order to chaos and connects easily with some of the world’s most noted “Chefs.” I’m expecting the likes of Dean Fearing and Charlie Trotter to be hosting spa weekend culinary classes soon. Watch for them and sign up quickly, if you are interested.
Meantime, the Stanley offers a neat Sunday Brunch in the Mac Gregor Room through September, from 10 am-2:00 pm ($25.00). The room provides a perfect view of the annual Elk Rut, when the animals cavort and frolic. It also provides gorgeous vistas of the Rockies. Call Phil or Jessica and tip well if you want a window – which, ofcourse, you will! No need to wait, a herd of 50-plus Elk “grazed” by the kitchen’s backdoor yesterday, hardly noticed by the kitchen staff because it happens here all the time... except when I attempt hunting!
Chef Richmond is revising dinner menus. The Game Platter is an obvious first choice and a big seller, but don’t hesitate to try the fresh halibut. Seafood is delivered daily... fish can be sourced from either coast for delivery to Denver the next morning.
Historical note: About twenty years ago, when I interviewed for the Executive Chef position at the Stanley, Kubrick’s, The Shining, filmed there with Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall wasn’t that old, but the kitchen was. I ran faster than Wendy.
With Ms. Harlow and Grand Heritage installed, the place has now changed. It's well worth a visit. Don't be late for brunch.