From the Kitchen: A Touch of Class
From food fights to music and wine pairings Aspen’s original cooking school reinvents itself with innovative programming
The notion that food preparation can be the centerpiece of a celebration, night out, meeting, class, reunion, musical event or any occasion where people come together was the idea that Rob Ittner, owner of Rustique Bistro, had when he opened the Cooking School of Aspen in March 2016. The original school existed under different ownership on the Hyman Avenue Mall until 2007; Ittner purchased the name and brand in late 2015.
“Opening the Cooking School of Aspen was a passion project, because there’s so much more to enjoying food than being served a nice meal in a restaurant,” says Ittner. “Think about any time that you’ve gone to a party: You end up in the kitchen. We’ve put the kitchen into the party.”
The 120-seat space is unique to Aspen. It’s smaller than local hotel ballrooms, and larger than the private rooms in restaurants—a perfect combination of the two. It feels intimate, with a warm cellar ambiance that can be sectioned off for smaller events.
To Ittner, a cooking class shouldn’t be a formal affair. It’s a chance to have a good time, learn something new and create memories that last. The Cooking School has hosted fundraisers, as well as events for kids and après-ski tasting classes. There’s also the ever-popular “food fights,” where two chefs compete and the guests vote on the winning dish. For Ittner, however, it’s all about the joy that food can bring.
Even music can be paired with meals (and wine). Recently, the School collaborated with the Aspen Music Festival and School on two events. For a music and wine pairing class, Music Festival President and CEO Alan Fletcher chose three musical compositions, which Ittner matched with three wines. For another event, pianist Conrad Tao has performed while classical musician and food blogger Molly Yeh “composed” her own edible creations for guests.
The Cooking School has also become a venue for Jazz Aspen Snowmass, where food is paired with jazz music from around the world. “Art emotionally inspires us at so many levels,” says Ittner, “but food and wine is an art, as well.”