A great meal in a mountain town used to mean a decent burger. But now top chefs—like these five masters from Colorado—are realizing that there's no better pairing than fine cuisine and high-altitude fun.
Mark Fischer has ridden the Leadville 100 on a single-speed (twice), skied from Crested Butte to Aspen in the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, and finished two Ironman triathlons. But he's received the most recognition in the kitchen. Not only has the James Beard Foundation Award–nominated chef founded two of Carbondale's most beloved restaurants, Six89 and Phat Thai; he's also largely credited for energizing the eat-local movement in the Roaring Fork Valley, thanks to Six89's weekly "100-mile" (as in radius) dinners. "Nine times out of ten, what we can buy right here is gonna taste better than that which comes freighted from some other time zone," says the 52-year-old Fischer. Next up: This December, Fischer plans to open an American eatery, the Pullman, in Glenwood Springs.
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Rahm Fama has always had a "fascination with meat." At nine, his grandfather taught him how to slaughter a lamb, on his family's ranch in Chama, New Mexico. Today, Fama wants to teach the rest of us to savor our food. "We eat because we have to," says the 36-year-old. "But how many meals do you actually remember? That's why I became a chef." For the past four years, Fama crafted unforgettable elk, antelope, and even rattlesnake dishes as the executive chef of the Wildflower, the restaurant at the Lodge at Vail. But you can now experience his cooking in your own home: In September, he debuted his show Meat & Potatoes on the Food Network.
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"My parents never approved of me being a chef," says Denver native Clint Ketchum, "but food was my passion, and I did what I wanted." After working his way up the line in some of Colorado's swankiest eateries, including Denver's award-winning Papillon Cafe, Ketchum is now the chef de cuisine at Breckenridge's Relish. And while he manages to snowboard some 120 days a year, his biggest rush still comes from serving up locally sourced buffalo, lamb, and trout to diners at this upscale but unpretentious joint. "We have an open kitchen," the 31-year-old says. "It's one of the best feelings, to see a table that's really loud and having a good time go dead quiet when the food arrives."
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