By Shawn Chitnis

The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen brings together the who’s who of the culinary world each year and is celebrating its 35th anniversary. CBS4’s Shawn Chitnis is covering the people connected to Colorado that make this the premiere event for the industry.

ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado becomes the ultimate destination for the culinary world each June and this year at the 35th annual Food & Wine Classic, the people and places around the Centennial State took a larger role than ever to highlight the talent and trends taking place locally.

“The best thing that I think kind of differentiates Colorado from all the other places and cities that we’ve shot is just how outdoors we’re able to be,” said Gail Simmons, “Top Chef” judge and food writer. “Every view, every vista is perfect, gorgeous, green, huge blue sky.”

(credit: Dan Wilby)

Simmons highlighted the food she recently enjoyed while traveling across Colorado during production of the 15th season of “Top Chef” in May and June. She had often come to Aspen for the Classic but only recently saw more of the state because of the show. Simmons lead a seminar on “Rocky Mountain Flavor” this past weekend.

“It’s not just about the Classic, it’s about the town of Aspen,” said Debbie Braun, President & CEO, Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

(credit: Dan Wilby)

Aspenites look forward to this event each year as their kickoff to the summer. But while most of the 5,000 attendees may never leave the town, Braun says it is an introduction to Colorado for all those visitors and the long-term impact over so many years not only helps the Aspen economy but gets more people to explore more of Colorado.

“There is nothing like Aspen,” said Bobby Stuckey of Frasca Food & Wine. “For Aspen Food & Wine Classic to have the two of us here from little Boulder is a real honor, it’s great for Colorado.”

Stuckey and his business partner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson were featured prominently at the 2017 Classic. The two partners opened up Frasca in Boulder back in 2004 and later Pizzeria Locale in Boulder. The second restaurant now has a fast casual spinoff across the country thanks to an investment from Chipotle. They were both asked to speak to others in the industry about developing talent at their restaurants and managing each dining concept as a team.

(credit: Dan Wilby)

“Aspen is an easy cell,” said Devin Padgett, Producer for Food & Wine, Special Projects. “Food & Wine is a perfect marriage.”

Padgett has helped the Classic run smoothly each spring for almost 30 years. He is one of the early team members that got more involved as the event grew in its prominence within the culinary world. He says all of Colorado should take pride in the impact of the Classic. The celebrity chef culture and the celebration of good food and wine came from the opportunities this industry gained because of the festival. He believes it’s a winning combination of a well-executed event in an incredible setting.

“There is just so much here to do,” Simmons said. “I mean, it’s so beautiful, it’s so vast.”

Shawn Chitnis reports on CBS4 This Morning. Email him story ideas at and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.