Trotter highlights culinary conference

By on October 29, 2013
Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter

Celebrity chef Charlie Trotter

While most cooks in Jackson get their job on the line by working their way up from dishwashing or bussing tables, there is a more formal route.

“We founded our culinary program because it was needed. There was a shortage of skilled restaurant workers in the valley,” says Amy Madera, Central Wyoming College Jackson’s director of hospitality and culinary programs.

CWC Jackson started its accredited Culinary Arts program in spring of 2007 with 14 students. Since then, the program has quadrupled, with students relocating to this valley from Virginia, California, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana.

Graduates of the program, as well as current students doing internships, can be found working at Amangani, Grand Teton Lodge Company, The Wort, Nani’s, Nikai, Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, The Gun Barrel, Jackson Whole Grocer, and Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse. Some graduates go on to University of Wyoming to earn bachelor’s degrees. One graduate is a chef at a resort in Mexico.

Daniel Luna started the program in 2008 and graduated in the spring of 2012. Today he is Nani’s head chef.

The program also does catering using current students. Students have prepared meals for CWC’s president and board of trustees, president of the University of Wyoming, and also elected officials. The general public can hire them too, if you’re in the market.

Classes are currently being held at the Elks Lodge, but CWC is looking for a restaurant partnership.

Beginning Sunday, CWC Jackson is holding the first-ever Jackson Hole Culinary Conference, dubbed “The Height of Taste.”

“The hope of the conference is to build awareness about our culinary program and provide chefs a comfortable environment to talk about issues in the industry,” Madera said. “CWC has made great strides in our culinary education. We have a lot of people who have really benefited from the program, and we want to give back to them by putting on this inaugural conference.”

Charlie Trotter, one of the nation’s first celebrity chefs and the founder of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago that bore his name, is the event’s biggest draw.

“He’s well known in the industry and will really give the conference energy and buzz,” Madera said. “He’ll talk off-the-cuff about dining and how to excel in the culinary world.”

Trotter speaks Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Center for the Arts Theater. It is free and open to the public. Earlier Sunday, the “Height of Taste Chef Showdown” kicks off the conference. It too is free to the public.

“The Chef Showdown is a competition between a local JH chef and a Sun Valley chef,” Madera says. “We will have judges from Chicago and New York.” The winner gets an engraved chef knife as a trophy.

The idea for the conference “came from a medical conference where physicians were in a natural, comfortable environment talking about issues,” Madera said. “They were able to confide in each other without any risk of being sued or being judged. We wanted to emulate that.”

“We’re drawing mountain town professional chefs and foodies,” Madera said. “It’s a great place for people who want to know more about cooking in a mountain environment – where resources and fresh ingredients can be limited – and learn tricks of the trade from the masters.”

Full three-day conference costs $350. To register or learn more:; 733-4211.

— Geraldine Mishev

About Geraldine Mishev

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