Press Releases

Game Creek Restaurant joins Taste of Vail 'showcase' lineup

CREATED: 2006-03-01 10:13 PM


Media contact:
Stephen Lloyd Wood,
media liaison

VAIL, Colo. - Here in the Rocky Mountains, this really is the epitome of haute cuisine.

The Game Creek Restaurant - on Vail Mountain at 10,200 feet above sea level - for the fourth consecutive year has joined the nation's premier spring food and wine festival as host to one of the most anticipated culinary events of the season.

On Wednesday, April 5, Executive Chef Thomas Newsted hosts guest chef Rick Moonen of rm seafood in Las Vegas at one of three Chefs Showcase Dinners as part of Taste of Vail, benefiting Vail Valley Charities for 16 years. Tickets are on sale at

"This is a totally new experience. I jumped at the opportunity just to be part of it; I'm thrilled," says Moonen, hailed as "King of the Sea" by the New York Times. "I'm from the East Coast, so for me to be able to come out West and be part of what's going on out here is a great opportunity."

The five-course, five-chef gourmet dinner promises to be a culinary extravaganza, as three other Vail chefs will be on hand, as well:
• Chef Randy Belanger of Chap's Grill & Chophouse, at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa.
• Chef Sean Cavanaugh of Ocotillo, at the Vail Marriott Resort & Spa.
• Pastry Chef Ken Goetsch of Wildflower, at the Lodge at Vail.

"It's rewarding to work alongside other chefs, getting to know the brains behind the magic," says Game Creek's Chef Newsted, winner of Taste of Vail's inaugural Lamb Coof-off last year, who's known for fusing American-French cooking with regional ingredients. "It also provides a window for others to see what Game Creek is about - the logistics involved, the setting, the staff that makes it happen."

The Taste of Vail was created in 1990 by a group of Vail Valley restaurateurs as a marketing event to showcase the resort's world-class restaurants. Now the internationally famous community boasts more than 20 Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants - the most of any resort community in the United States. This year, as many as 5,000 attendees and volunteers are expected to participate in the 16th annual Taste of Vail, with chefs from more than three dozen local restaurants and winemakers and/or owners of 58 wineries from around the world participating.

Despite its stature among wine and culinary festivals and a reputation for haute cuisine, the Taste of Vail is a nonprofit organization. In the past 15 years, the festival has contributed more than $300,000 to Vail Valley Charities; and in 2005, in conjunction with Ritz-Carlton, the Taste of Vail donated $13,000 to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund.

Not surprisingly, events like Taste of Vail's Chefs Showcase Dinners are complicated affairs known to build camaraderie among chefs, sommeliers and winemakers, as all courses are paired with special selections from participating wineries. The night of the event, they all work together as one big team in the kitchen of the host chef - in this case, Chef Newsted, who's hosted three Chefs Showcase Dinners in the past.

"Working events like Taste of Vail gets you out of your typical environment," says Ocotillo's Chef Cavanaugh, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in 1985 and a veteran chef with Marriott, as well as the Hilton, Sheraton and Wyndham hotel chains. "It really opens your eyes."

Organizing such sophisticated culinary events can be quite complicated. Typically, the host chef is the point person, arranging meetings with the other chefs, sommeliers and representatives from the wineries. Once the tone is set, the chefs toss more ideas around until everyone is comfortable with the menu and their role in producing it. The dinners are learning experiences, indeed - not only for diners but for the chefs and sommeliers, as well.

Chef Belanger of Chap's Grill & Chophouse - a native of Maine who moved to the Vail Valley in 2004 after developing his own "pan-Pacific, California-style cuisine" in Los Angeles and New Zealand - says he's looking forward to participating.

"In Los Angeles, there's a lot of competition and everybody's trying to out-do everybody else. Here in Vail, there a lot of camaraderie; it's like a brotherhood," Belanger says. "The Taste of Vail is a great venue, where we all have the same interest. It really gets the juices flowing."

Unlike Taste of Vail's other Chefs Showcase Dinners, this one features a gourmet dessert/wine pairing.

"Sure, it's a different twist. Typically, I look at the menu first; this time I'll be considering the wine, too," says Wildflower's Goetsch, recently promoted to pastry chef after working as Lodge at Vail's baker for 10 years. "And it's exciting to be working with guys like Rick (Moonen) and Thomas (Newsted).

Indeed, all four Vail Valley chefs welcome Chef Moonen, described by the New York Times as "that rare chef whose creations are both gutsy and academic" when he was executive chef at the renowned restaurant rm, in New York City. In 2004, Moonen closed his New York operations to concentrate on a new "multi-venue extravaganza" - rm seafood, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

A contributing editor to Food & Wine Magazine and a frequent guest chef at the James Beard House and Macy's De Gustibus Cooking School, Moonen has appeared on many of television's most popular shows, such as NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "The Early Show" and CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," as well as The Food Network, Martha Stewart Living Television and PBS. His new cookbook, "Seafood Without a Doubt," is due to be published this year by Houghton-Mifflin.

"Really, I'm sort of a last-minute procrastinator; but in the arena I work, that's perfect," says Moonen, also famous for visiting fish markets at 4 a.m. and changing his menu daily. "When you bank on something, you'll surely not have it. It's a wild product, and you have to be Johnny On-the-Spot. It all comes together at the last minute."

Game Creek Restaurant, meanwhile, has emerged as a true culinary destination, where the scenery is surpassed only by the cuisine. And this Chef Showcase Dinner promises to be a true culinary experience, with breathtaking views at sunset and a live auction featuring rare bottles from the wineries.

Tickets to the Chefs Showcase Dinner at Game Creek Restaurant - not included in the Festival Pass - are $125 per person. Guests with tickets can begin boarding the Eagle-Bahn Gondola, in Lionshead, at 5 p.m. (gondola pass is not included).

For more information on tickets, travel and lodging, as well as the latest on wineries and restaurants participating in the 16th annual Taste of Vail, visit

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