Food for the locals
Susie Jimenez may be a nationally known chef, but that doesn’t stop her from looking out for those without the time or money to attend a whole weekend of Food and Wine in Aspen.
When she’s not participating in the main event, the Carbondale caterer will be spending her weekend cooking alongside Scott Leysath at the Aspen Chef’s House. A ticket to hours of tempting dining and drinks runs just $35 Friday or Saturday and $25 for a Sunday hangover brunch. Tickets, if they don’t sell out, are available at eventbrite.com.
“I do it for the locals,” Jimenez said. “It’s giving some love to a community that’s given me so much.”
This year’s focus on wild game and local food leaves plenty of room for variety, from elk dumplings and wild boar carnitas to seafood paella and ceviches.
“Our menu’s insane. We’ve got like 50 items that we’re just going to keep coming out,” Jimenez said. “I want people to feel like their senses have been challenged and pleased.”
“My name is behind it, so I’m a control freak,” she added. “Sommeliers tell me my food is hard to pair because it’s got a lot of spice, but I’m in charge of the cocktails. I can’t just make a margarita. It’s gotta be a kickass margarita.”
Jimenez made the move down to Crystal River Valley in 2007 and opted for the slightly lower stress of catering.
“I’ve seen what happens to chefs,” she said. “I don’t have to work in the restaurant world. I get to pick and choose what I do.”
Even so, she sometimes has to remember to take a break.
“In 2015 I said yes to everything. I can’t do that anymore. This year has been more about me. It’s the only way I can be better for anyone else,” she said. “You start looking at your menus, and they all look the same. Then you need more inspiration.”
A July vacation in the Napa Valley should provide just that. Come fall, she expects to begin planning for next year’s house.
“It’s one of those events my husband doesn’t look forward to,” she joked.
When it seems like a lot of work, Jimenez tries to remember how hard she worked to get where she is while also staying humble.
“I know Mexican food like it’s going out of style, but any person that thinks they don’t need to learn anymore is full of it,” she said.
“Food brings people together,” she added. “I don’t go through the process of cooking without sharing a memory.”
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Christina Cappelli described playwright Steven Dietz’s “The Nina Variations” as providing a couple with a reset button, the ability to repeat conversations and say something differently and see where things will end up this time.