Great food, great cause

Local chefs cook gourmet meal for Boulder County AIDS Project

BCAP chefs from 2010
Photo courtesy of BCAP

If you long for the Elway-era bright blue and orange, lobby for Bill Clinton to break term limit laws or still pay for a land line, you’re in luck: At least one thing in Boulder is going back to the good old days.

The theme of this year’s Boulder County AIDS Project Local Legends Gala is “Back to Our Roots,” which reflects the event’s return to its original format. Several of Boulder’s top restaurant chefs will be pairing up to prepare a five-course gourmet meal for the Local Legends Gala at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the Hotel Boulderado.

Chefs Dave Query of Big Red F Restaurant group and John Platt of Q’s Restaurant and Riff ’s Urban Fare have gathered a team of 13 talented chefs to create a fall-inspired dinner for more than 200 guests. The event will be hosted by Chris Parente, anchor for KWGN-CW2.

“Back to Our Roots” is described by BCAP Marketing and Special Events Manager Elissa Smith as an “elegant, multi-course dinner that the dinner was known for.”

The original event always featured a seated dinner that took place at Hotel Boulderado before switching to a cook station format at the St Julien Hotel and Spa for the past few years.

“I think some of the people that had been involved in the event really wanted to sort of change it up and try something new,” says Ana Hopperstad, executive director of Boulder County AIDS Project. “We did cook stations for three years, and the chefs that support us came back to us this year and wanted to do a more formal dinner, and we were thrilled.”

The dinner didn’t always involve as many chefs as it has now, and they weren’t paired up in teams.

“When it first started, we had a different chef doing each course, which is kind of the norm for these dinners now, but back in the day it was really fresh and really gathered a lot of attention,” says Query.

In more recent years, the chefs work in pairs and are assigned to prepare specific courses as a team. This format will be used in this year’s event.

“I think that’s really what gets the chefs excited about the event, because they get the chance to all be in the kitchen together and work together to create their menu offering,” says Smith.

The dinner will also feature a signature cocktail made with specially infused vodka by 303 Vodka in Boulder, beer on tap from Mountain Sun Brewery, and wine pairings from wine specialist William Snowden of Republic National Distributors.

The chefs who are participating in the event come from restaurants all over Boulder, including newcomers such as Alec Schuler of Arugula and Steven Redzikowski of Oak at Fourteenth. Many of the other chefs at the event have been participating since the beginning, such as Mark Monette of the Flagstaff House and Bradford Heap of SALT.

Jim Smailer, head chef of Boulder Cork, has not always been available to participate in the dinner, but is looking forward to being back at the event this year.

“I’ll tell you what I’ve always said: I don’t know of another event that gets all of the top-end Boulder chefs together. … It’s the only thing in Boulder that has done that,” he says.

Smailer will be paired with Monette for the second course of the dinner, which will include a roasted butternut squash soup made by Monette, and braised, all-natural short ribs prepared by Smailer.

For dessert, pastry chef Jen Bush will be serving a toasted meringue panna cotta with a honey yogurt and a cinnamon sponge cake with honey and marigold spun sugar. Bush is the main pastry chef at Lucky’s Bakehouse and Creamery, which will open Nov. 5 on Broadway in Boulder, across from Lucky’s Market.

Many of the courses are still being considered, but all will be inspired by the fall season, with an emphasis on food from local farms.

The event is certain to have great food, but that is not to take away from the main purpose of the event, which is to raise awareness and support for Boulder County AIDS Project and to honor individuals who have offered tremendous support and effort in the fight against the disease.

“This has been a really established event for a long time,” says Bush. “It’s a really great opportunity for a lot of great chefs and to give to a really great Boulder organization like BCAP. It’s a great thing to support. It really is.”

The overall event, in addition to the dinner, has also gone through a few changes over the years, and a lot of it has to do with some special guests.

“I think that the main difference between the old dinners we used to do and the local legends event is that it real ly does give us an additional opportunity to honor people from our community,” says Hopperstad. “We’ve always had volunteer of the year, board member of the year and corporation of the year, and that’s been a wonderful way to honor those people who gave amazing service, but this allows us even to reach beyond BCAP and into the community.”

Some of the local legends that will be attending the event include Bud Coleman, associate professor and chair of the department of theatre and dance at the University of Colorado Boulder. Coleman has directed more than three dozen plays, including Rent, Seussical, Pippin, The Mikado, Into the Woods, Hair and Six Degrees of Separation.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to honor people who were strong advocates for HIV and AIDS in the community, and so we renamed the event, formerly known as the BCAP Annual Dinner, to the Local Legends,” says Hopperstad. “First it was called the Local Legends Ball because we had dancing that year, and then we switched it to the gala. So this will be the fourth Local Legends.”

Also in attendance will be Barb Cardell, who is a steering committee member at Positive Women’s Network and has been living with HIV since 1991. Cardell was also appointed by former Gov. Bill Ritter to sit on the Colorado Coalition for HIV Care and Prevention in 2011 and was elected vice chair of the coalition in 2012.

There will be a silent auction during the cocktail reception beginning at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m. and BCAP’s program and live auction at 8 p.m. Some items up for auction include a week-long vacation to the Caribbean, a year of fine dining, and a day with Chris Parente, anchor at KWGN-CW2.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost $125 per person. They are available online at or by calling Elissa Smith at 303-444-6121.