Colorado's thousands of food establishments sit in a landscape of exceptional beauty: A tour through the state will take you through snow-peaked mountains, colorful canyons, mesas, lush sage hills and wild rivers. While Colorado maintains plenty of open spaces, including 8.3 million acres of public lands and 31.6 million acres of farmland, its cities -- including Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder -- offer plenty of culture and fine food. For up-and-coming chefs who want to train in a state that is a beautiful rising star in the food landscape, culinary schools in Colorado should be seriously considered.
Colorado Food Scene: Exceptional and Unpretentious
Good cooking has long played an important role in the state, as demonstrated in a 2012 exhibit on early settlers' food at Denver's History Colorado Center. As Denver Post's Kristen Browning-Blas noted, in Colorado's early days, "People from all over the world were trading with each other in goods and ideas -- from Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America -- peacefully" (Denverpost.com). Some of the early staples included local duck, buffalo and venison, as well as freshly baked breads and pies. Local food continues to be important to Colorado chefs, who creatively blend ingredients grown and raised on the state's 36,500 farms (agclassroom.org).
Colorado's largest city, Denver, has gained a reputation for serving up some of the finest food in America. When asked by the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau to describe the city's food scene, Denver Post food critic Tucker Shaw called it "fearless" and without pretensions: "Our cooks are audacious and creative, but their restaurants are very accessible - no foodier-than-thou attitude here." When the area's chefs were asked the same question, several noted the camaraderie between chefs. As Elway's chef Tyler Wiard put it, "Denver has a great network of chefs who talk to each other on a regular basis about new ideas. ... We like to hang out together, we like learning from each other" (Denver.org).
The laid-back, friendly food scene found in Denver and throughout the state does not come at the expense of innovative, fine cooking. In 2010, Bon Appétit named Boulder "America's Foodiest Town." In 2013, the James Beard Foundation further carved Colorado's name in food history by naming 10 semifinalists from Colorado, with seven hailing from the Denver area.
Genial yet Serious: Cooking Schools in Colorado
While those who attend culinary schools in Colorado appreciate this friendly, laid-back atmosphere, standards remain high. Students will likely learn traditional and contemporary cooking techniques, from age-old sauces to the latest in gluten-free and tapas menus. Colorado cooking schools may also teach students how to incorporate local food into various cuisines, reminding them to leave room on the menu for meat and potatoes -- local staples.
The state's exceptional chefs and restaurants should serve as inspiration to Colorado culinary students. Among these are Denver-based multirestaurant owner Frank Bonanno, who is a James Beard semifinalist for the third year in a row, as well as three Denver chefs (out of 20 total) named as semifinalists for Best Chef Southwest: Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja, who also was a semifinalist last year, Max MacKissock of The Squeaky Bean, and Alex Seidel of Fruition Restaurant (bizjournals.com).
For too long, the Colorado food scene remained a cloistered secret, known only to those familiar with the region. Word-of-mouth and award-winning restaurants and chefs have helped get the message out, creating new opportunities for rising chefs.
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management: Colorado, 2013, http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en.html
"Boulder's Dining Scene," Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2011, http://www.bouldercoloradousa.com/media/media-kit/dining-scene/
"The new History Colorado Center shows early settlers' food life," Denver Post, Kristen Browning-Blas, April 25, 2012, http://www.denverpost.com/food/ci_20463274/colorado-history-center-shows-early-settlers-food-life
"A Look at Colorado Agriculture," National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 2010, http://www.agclassroom.org/kids/stats/colorado.pdf
"Mile High City Foodies Dish on Dining in Denver," VISIT DENVER, Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2013, http://www.denver.org/dining-nightlife/restaurants/denver-foodies
"Denver area has 7 in the running for James Beard restaurant awards," Denver Business Journal, Ed Sealover and L. Wayne Hicks, February 19, 2013, http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2013/02/19/denver-area-has-7-in-the-running-for.html
For information on Culinary Schools in Colorado, please visit any school below and request more information.