Summit Right Brain: Keystone chef Stefan Smith prepares for annual Wine in the Pines fundraiser
if you go
What: 33nd annual Wine in the Pines fundraiser for Ability Connection Colorado
When: Saturday, Oct. 22; 6 p.m.
Where: Keystone Resort Conference Center, 633 Tennis Club Rd, Dillon, CO 80435
Cost: Advanced Purchase General Open Seating: $130/person; At The Door – General Open Seating: $155/person; Advanced Purchase Preferred Seating: $200/person; Advanced Purchase Preferred Table for Ten: $2,000/table
Hundreds of guests don their best formal wear each year for the annual Wine in the Pines fundraiser. The popular Keystone social event will be celebrating its 33rd year this weekend with a gourmet food tasting, live musical entertainment, silent and live auctions, and nearly 500 wines to try. The weekend begins with a Winemaker’s Dinner at Keystone Ranch on Friday, Oct. 21, a five-course wine pairing dinner, then culminates on Saturday, Oct. 22 with the International Wine & Gourmet Food Tasting at the Keystone Conference Center.
The event supports the Denver-based nonprofit Ability Connection Colorado, which turned 70 this year, with proceeds going toward the organization’s employment programs. The fundraiser was created by Mike and Margaret Smith in honor of their youngest child Kelly, who was born with cerebral palsy. Funding helps the nonprofit’s Kelly Smith Employment Center, which seeks “to ensure that all people with disabilities have a quality life of dignity and inclusion within their community,” according to Ability Connection Colorado’s website.
This year’s theme is ’70s disco, and the 17th Avenue Allstar Band will provide entertainment. Each year, Keystone Resort’s chefs provide small plates for guests to sample. Each restaurant offers up a different tasting, and Keystone pastry chef Ned Archibald pulls out all the stops for the dessert table. Executive chef of the Keystone Conference Center, Stefan Smith, will be dishing up a Cheeses of the World presentation, featuring baked Brie with house-made sea-salt lavosh crackers. This is Smith’s seventh year supporting the Wine in the Pines event, and his 10th year with the resort. Smith also teaches a course on ice carving for Colorado Mountain College’s culinary apprenticeship program, and his carvings will be showcased at the fundraiser, as well as throughout the resort this upcoming winter. Smith took some time out of the kitchen to chat about his food and the annual Keystone event.
Summit Daily News: What was the inspiration behind your dish for Wine in the Pines?
Stefan Smith: Pairing cheese and wine is always a classical pairing. We do a variety of cheeses to accompany the drastic choices in wine, allowing guests to pair their favorite wine with a cheese pairing.
SDN: Why do you think the fundraiser is such a well-attended event every year?
SS: I think this is an awesome event for an amazing cause and our locals like to support it for these reasons. Mike and Margaret Smith founded Wine in the Pines to honor their daughter, Kelly, who was born with cerebral palsy. The Kelly Smith Employment Center provides services to over 4,500 adults and teens with disabilities statewide each year. It is also a great opportunity for people to come and check out all of the amazing Keystone culinary outlets under one roof. The Ranch, Ski Tip, Black Bear, Big Horn Bistro, Alpenglow Stube and the Keystone Conference Center Bakeshop and Banquets all create amazing tastings to pair with the wide selection of wines.
SDN: Tell us a little about your culinary background.
SS: I’m a graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado and moved to the mountains to pursue a career with Vail Resorts. I’ve worked for several outlets throughout Summit County, but for the most part I have been at the Conference Center for a majority of the last 10 years. I enjoy teaching and working with the Colorado Mountain College apprenticeship program, as well as the amazing culinary team in Keystone.
SDN: What is your favorite aspect to working for the resort?
SS: I enjoy working at Keystone Resort for many reasons. My favorite aspect is the ice carving program that we have here in Keystone, differentiating us from any other Summit County resort. I’ve recently taken the reins of the ice carving program from our executive chef of Keystone Hospitality, Steve Nguyen, whom I’ve apprenticed with for the past seven years. This aspect of my job includes teaching a five-week elective ice carving class for the Colorado Mountain College culinary students. The Conference Center chefs carve an interactive Eskimo ice family in River Run, a life-size sleigh and reindeer (with the help of the students) leading up to Christmas in the Keystone Lakeside Village, among many other carvings throughout each winter season.
SDN: How does working at the Conference Center compare to a traditional restaurant?
SS: In a traditional restaurant, each cook has a station and plans their Mise en Place (everything in its place) according to their anticipated volumes and executes their menu in conjunction with their coworkers, whereas we’re all about teamwork. Every project is team oriented and each shift is different in that we know how many guests we have and what their menus are. There is a lot of time leading up to these functions that consists of planning customized menus, organizing and planning off-site events, coordinating with our bakery, banquet, audio/visual and sales teams to make each groups experience an ‘Experience of a Lifetime.’
SDN: Do you have a favorite style of cooking? Why?
SS: I enjoy cooking with my friends and family, whether it’s après after skiing, hors d’oeuvres for a Broncos game, a classical holiday celebration with the family or just a weeknight meal — gathering of friends and family is what food is all about. My grandfather’s passion for cooking and brining our family together is how I became interested in the culinary field.
SDN: What inspires you when creating new dishes?
SS: I enjoy trying the amazing new dishes at the various restaurants in Keystone, stopping into a new hot spot in Denver or even while traveling to look for inspiration. I find that inspiration from trying others’ food can get the creative side going.
SDN: What do you think is the best piece of advice you could give to your culinary students/aspiring chefs?
SS: Always have passion and enjoy what you’re doing. Always have fun whether you’re in class, studying or working in the kitchen and be passionate about everything that you do inside and out of the kitchen, and you’ll be the best culinarian that you can be.
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