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  • Writer's pictureChris Marhevka

Mise en Place: Setting the Stage for The Food & Wine Classic 2022

The Food & Wine Classic is a multi-day festival in the mountains of Aspen, Colorado. This year, the weekend festivities started Thursday night with a kickoff party, so come early Friday morning, the streets of Downtown Aspen were abuzz with patrons shuffling the sidewalks. For blocks and blocks, I saw people moving with such purpose, the colorful lanyards swinging from their necks, neon green Covid-vaccination-confirming wristbands catching the sunlight as they scrambled for coffee and ruffled their tiny maps to get their bearings.

The hum of the morning rush reminded me instantly of a kitchen just before service. At 9am, an hour until presentation, everyone involved with hosting the seminars was either silent or speaking in hushed tones. Intense focus was given to preparation. As if performing a choreographed dance, team members finished setup then hit their marks at the front of the entrances, waiting attentively for their next cue. Swiftly, lines formed, and then ten minutes before the doors opened, the silence gave way to excitement. I made small talk with a couple from DC on their honeymoon as first-time festival-goers, then with another couple, slightly older, returning to Aspen after many years away. The older couple said that the pandemic was still impacting their day-to-day lives in the South, so this trip was a much-needed escape, if even only for a weekend. The halls of the St. Regis echoed conversations with phrases like, "This has been on my bucket list for forever," and, "I just ran into (insert celebrity chef) and they were so down-to-earth!" With each exchange, it became clear that these interactions had a common theme: a wary optimism to experience joy and celebrate an industry that has been put through the wringer over the past couple years.

Count me in with the first-time attendees. The past weekend was a surreal fever dream of meeting my culinary heroes and taking space in the industry as a legitimate professional cook with a unique culinary perspective. I introduced myself for the first time not just as a student, but as a cook and a writer. This weekend was also my 31st birthday, as well as a lead-in to my final week of culinary school. It felt like a maturation of a dream I've held close for so long, one that was meticulously cultivated to reach this moment. Up in the mountains, among culinary legends, I let myself be vulnerable, awkward, joyous, and confident. I got to know a community of people who shared my love of food and culture. And now I get to share those experiences with all of you! Sign up to follow along!

- Chris

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