Christy Rost greets us in the doorway with a welcoming wave. Stepping into the foyer and shaking the snow off our boots, we’re hit with a warm wave of air that smells deliciously of baked goods. Rost ushers us into her kitchen, a wide room decorated floor to ceiling for Christmas. A table set for six features green glasses, Christmas-tree-decorated plates and large white candles in holiday-themed ceramic candleholders. On a glass serving platter on the black-granite-topped center island sits the source of the wonderful smells — a loaf of Christmas Morning Bread Rost has baked just for the occasion.
Rost, who has lived in Breckenridge since 2007, is well known for hosting “Just Like Home,” a Texas cooking and lifestyle television show, as well as an hour-long Thanksgiving holiday special for PBS and Create TV for the past four years. Rost has also published three cookbooks, the most recent of which features recipes specific to high-altitude cooking.
In the kitchen
The kitchen Rost shows us into is her formal show kitchen, the one where she entertains large groups of guests and shoots her holiday show. It’s every chef’s fantasy, with ample counter space, multiple ovens and a pantry that Rost herself admits is a dream come true.
The kitchen is an addition to the original house, which dates to 1898 and has deep roots in Breckenridge’s past. The house was built by Ben Stanley Revett, a local mining baron who extracted a fortune in gold from the surrounding Swan Valley and nearby Blue River. When Rost and her husband purchased the house in 2007, they embarked on three years’ worth of renovations and restoration, seeking to modernize aspects like heating and plumbing while preserving its historic elements. The dark wood paneling and floorboards on the lower level are original, as is the brick-lined safe room where Revett locked away his gold. Even the unusually sized doorways are original to the house; they were widened so the large-girthed Revett could sweep majestically from room to room.
“My goal was to restore this house to the same graciousness that Ben Revett would have had in his home,” Rost said.
Rost loves having a historic house, especially one with a history of entertaining, as with Swan’s Nest. Named for the valley and painted white for the bird, Revett’s home was often the site of local galas and fancy gatherings, with items like champagne and oysters often on the menu. Now, Rost has taken over host duties and she’s loving every moment of it.
“I thrive on it, I really do,” she said. “I’m really mindful of the people who have lived here before.”
Although the show kitchen may be new, it has historic elements incorporated into it as well. The table is one such item. Solid and sturdy, the top was formerly the chopping block used by Revett’s chefs, dating it somewhere around 115 years old. Marks from the chefs’ favorite chopping spots can still be seen.
Tips on table decoration
Even when Rost isn’t onscreen or being photographed, she focuses just as much on presentation as on the meal itself. One of her passions is table decoration, whether it’s a special holiday occasion or simply dinnertime.
“I just try to bring a bit of glamorous nature to it,” she said, “some glamour and glitz to what started as a casual table.”
Although she never knows how a table arrangement will end up, Rost likes to start with one simple element, such as a specific set of plateware or glasses, or a color. Green was the theme of her Christmas arrangement, showing up in the glasses, the plate decorations, candlestick holders and in the crumpled brocade fabric centerpiece.
“I’m always trying to pick up the colors throughout a table setting,” she said.
Holidays are a good time to bring out the family heirlooms, any silverware or plates for a special occasion, Rost suggested. The key to any decorative table setting, however, is choosing a theme and building the rest of the setting around it.
Even renters or second-home owners who don’t have their usual decorations on hand can do something dramatic with their table, whether it’s bringing in pinecones from the morning hike or an item discovered at a local store.
“I believe firmly that when you put something nice on your table or something with a little bit of thought, that it can transform an ordinary day into something special.”
Gathering around the table
Baking has been a part of Rost’s life since she was 12 years old. Her grandmother was an accomplished cook and Rost has vivid memories of the food she used to make. Her own first endeavor, an ambitious lemon meringue pie, marked her foray into the world of baked goods.
“There was something about that that I was completely enamored with,” Rost said, and after her first pie, “I was hooked.”
Cooking has enthralled Rost not only with its creative possibilities but the enjoyment of the act itself.
“I’ve always turned to cooking and baking as a way to relax and to kind of step back from the demands of the day,” she said, “which maybe is part of the reason why I still cook every day.”
Getting food on the table is only half the process. The other half is bringing the people. Rost is a big proponent of family meals at which everyone puts aside outside distractions and sits down together.
“To me, it’s really important to have a great meal and all, but especially to sit down and share it,” she said. “People have been doing that since the start of civilization. They’ve always come together for the food, around the fire in the early days, and around campfires later, and around the table.”
The sit-down meal is something she feels has fallen out of practice in recent years and that she hopes to bring back.
“I decided at the start of my career that that would be one of my major missions, to help bring people back to the table, because I think it is key to creating solid families and strong friendships.”
Rost will be emphasizing family togetherness and holiday cheer during her Thanksgiving special this month, shot, as always, from her Swan’s Nest kitchen. “A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving” will feature Rost cooking her holiday meal with original recipes, planning decorations and, of course, sitting down at the table with friends and family members.