“Chef Didier Elena Talks Chef’s Club,” Aspen Peak
Chef Didier Elena Talks Chef’s Club
BY AMIEE WHITE BEAZLEY
While most global food trends originate in Paris, New York, or San Francisco, others start right here in our mountain town. Chefs Club by Food & Wine, located in the St. Regis Aspen Resort, debuted last summer, showcasing a revolving roster of exceptionally talented young chefs culled from Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs program, which celebrates 25 years at this summer’s Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The restaurant features a curated menu of collaborative cuisine. Participating chefs have included Jonathon Sawyer, George Mendes, Jenn Louis, and Alex Seidel, among others. The concept resonated with visiting and local foodies, resulting in the creation of a new global brand, Chefs Club USA, helmed by president and partner Stephane De Baets. Two new Chefs Club restaurants are slated to open, in San Francisco late this year and in New York in 2014.
A platform for culinary expression—with an exhibition kitchen and cooking demos—the Aspen locale is at the forefront of global dining: “cuisine à la minute,” as coined by new Chefs Club Executive Chef Didier Elena. “Trends in cuisine are all part of a cycle,” Elena explains. “We’ve seen very technical cuisine, modern cuisine… and now I see us returning to cuisine from our roots, driven by seasonality and sourcing excellent local products.”
A Monaco native, Elena spent 20 years working with Alain Ducasse, including posts as executive chef of Alain Ducasse at the Essex House and the Alain Ducasse Restaurant Group, where he also served as culinary consultant. In his new Chefs Club role, he oversees a handpicked kitchen staff of top sous chefs and the Best New Chefs selected to curate the seasonally driven menus at all Chefs Club restaurants. “It’s important to share culinary knowledge,” he adds. “Having different chefs involved in the conception of the menu that we offer at the Chefs Club makes the experience unique.”
For what one dish will you be known?
The Santa Barbara uni spaghetti will be a signature dish across all Chefs Club menus. As a child, I spent time fishing with my father and catching sea urchin. We’d open them, toss them with spaghetti and garlic, and eat it on the boat. It translates well because it is so pure and simple, with flavor from the sea complemented by the richness of the pasta, fennel, and garlic.
Ducasse emphasized the importance of using minimal ingredients. How does this extend to the menu at Chefs Club?
I try to have fewer than three flavors: a main ingredient in a pure style and a garnish or complement that will be 50 percent of the dish…. For example, the ravioli dish is stuffed with short ribs and a bit of greens and then heavily complemented by locally grown, seasonal greens. Chefs Club, 315 E. Dean St., 970-429-9581