New chef plates up ‘new consciousness’ at Blue River Bistro in Breckenridge
July 1, 2018
The new executive chef at Blue River Bistro is reinvigorating they way the long-established Breckenridge restaurant does business, and some of its loyal customers might have already noticed his influence in a variety of ways.
Showcasing his classic French roots and contemporary American-Island fusion, chef Dante Tripi has been with the Blue River Bistro since April, and as the restaurant continues to revamp its menu with the seasons, everything is fair game, from its herb-infused butter to the marinara sauce.
It's important to say Tripi and the restaurant's owner, Jay Beckerman, aren't looking making wholesale changes, and they're not doing it all at once. Expressing a gratitude for the bistro's longtime customers, the chef and owner both said they don't want fix anything that isn't broken. Rather, they aim to keep the bistro on "the cutting edge" of Summit County's rich restaurant scene, and to them, that means being willing to rethink anything and everything they might be able to do better, even if just a little bit.
"We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our staff to be better," said Tripi, describing the progression as a never-ending journey, not a destination. "For me anyway, it's my responsibility as a chef to teach these guys to be passionate about what they're doing and not just go through the motions."
All of this is leading to a new style of menu development, Tripi explained, adding that they're trying not to get out ahead of themselves and looking at the bistro's menu one dish at a time.
Tripi himself comes from a long line of cooks, and his mother, a nurse, actually stands as one of the finest he's ever known. In fact, Tripi said he still struggles to duplicate some of his mom's best recipes.
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He graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, and came to Breckenridge after working at a number of highly regarded restaurants over the last two decades, places like the Four Seasons on Hawaii's Big Island and restaurants created by acclaimed chefs George Marvo and Roy Yamaguchi. Many credit Yamaguchi for helping popularize Asian-fusion dishes in the U.S., and Tripi has "always joked that (Yamaguchi) is the reason everyone has to have ahi tuna on the menu."
After working with Yamaguchi for about eight years, Tripi returned to Colorado to become the executive chef at Sullivan's Steakhouse in Denver before a stint at The Greenbriar Inn in Boulder, where he found himself at the forefront of the garden-to-table movement.
"We were putting in our gardens, harvesting our own stuff," Tripi recalled. "You know it's huge now, obviously, but I remember getting into all that (when it wasn't nearly so big), and it was amazing to have something that fresh."
Now, he's hoping to carry over that same kind of fresh food and enviromental consciousness to the Blue River Bistro, though in many ways the restaurant was one step ahead of its new chef before he even got there. In fact, after meeting Beckerman through a restaurant recruiter, Tripi said the owner was the single biggest reason he wanted to come to the High Country.
"We just hit it off right away," Tripi recalled. "We were speaking the same language; we had the same ideas. He invited me up, and … it was like, 'OK, sold.'"
Inside the Blue River Bistro, Tripi found inspiration easy and all around. The steel straws, a simple thing really, were just one item that showed "the conciseness" he wants in his servings.
For Tripi, that also means being responsible with his selection of ingredients, and not plating items out of season. To accomplish this, he sits down with Beckerman almost daily, and during these conversations they talk about things like the menu, what's trending, seasonality and the direction they want to take the restaurant.
Another example of being a responsible restaurant, according to Tripi, is knowning what he's plating. The Blue River Bistro won't serve foie gras, a classic French dish made from the liver of a duck or goose. It can be found on most high-end French menus, "but the treatment of the animals themselves is just not something we stand behind," Tripi said, so they won't use it.
Instead, he sees it as a chef's job to set the tone by using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, whether it be livestock or produce like Palisade Peaches or Olathe Sweet Corn. "These are some of the most amazing ingredients, and they're right here in our backyard," he said, adding that people will see a lot of that on the bistro's menu.
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