Aspen’s first Michelin star goes to Chef Barclay Dodge at Bosq
Michelin Guide inspectors are adamantly impartial and completely anonymous, determined to review restaurants on the basis of food alone as they evaluate the best of the best in the culinary world. A restaurant cannot buy its way into the guide produced by a French tire company, nor can they determine exactly when they’ll be evaluated or what the verdict will be.
Still, in the weeks leading up to Colorado’s first Michelin Guide release, there were theories that some Aspen restaurants would be recognized for their menus. The invitations to a ceremony on Sept. 12 in Denver were likely a good hint, tipping off local chefs, journalists, and tourism officials that it might be worth attending.
Only five restaurants in the state would ultimately take home a Michelin star, and Chef Barclay Dodge’s Bosq in downtown Aspen was one of them, earning one of the highest accolades in fine dining. Three other local establishments — Mawa’s Kitchen in the Aspen Airport Business Center, Element 47 at The Little Nell and Prospect at the Hotel Jerome — didn’t earn a star but are still “recommended” in the guide.
“The energy was palpable in the room with people waiting to hear what had been cloaked in secrecy leading up to the event,” said Eliza Voss, the vice president of marketing at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.
Voss attended the ceremony as one of several tourism officials who helped make this Michelin recognition possible. While restaurants can’t influence their inspectors with cash, organizations like the Colorado Tourism Office and ACRA do pay Michelin — to the tune of five- or six-figure financial contributions — to have their regions considered in the guide, according to The New York Times.
The inaugural Colorado edition considered restaurants in Denver, Boulder, Aspen and Snowmass Village, and Vail and Beaver Creek, all represented by agencies that funded the guide. Other communities that didn’t write a check weren’t part of this year’s evaluation, but they could be in the future if they opt in.
Voss said in a phone interview that ACRA saw the Michelin Guide as a chance for international recognition of Aspen’s culinary scene — one that supplements stateside accolades from the James Beard Awards, known as the “Oscars of the food world.” (Element 47 already has several Beard Awards for its wine program; Chef Dodge, of Bosq, was a semifinalist this year and Chef Mawa McQueen, of Mawa’s Kitchen, was a semifinalist last year.)
“There's a niche market for travelers who are interested in tasting Michelin-starred restaurants’ food,” Voss said. “But I think, importantly beyond that, you can really only eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant one night of your time here in Aspen. So it also exposes all of the other restaurants to that foodie traveler as well.”
Voss also said the accolades can raise the profile of the entire state’s food scene: It suggests that the West, and mountain communities that define it, can have the same reputation for culinary innovation and excellence that has long been associated with cities like New York and Paris.
“It's really exciting for Aspen but also all of Colorado that this place … has a burgeoning food scene, with people being really creative and kind of pushing the envelope on what being a chef in the mountains can mean,” Voss said.
And for those who earn a rare Michelin star — one is a sign that their food is “worth a stop,” while two or three denote menus that are “worth a detour” or “worth a special journey” — the recognition can change the fate of their restaurant.
The guide describes Dodge’s Bosq as a “singular enclave;” the chef, now one of a select few with Michelin status, said in a press release that he was “thrilled” at the honor.
“Aspen is where it all began, and our mission is to cook with the amazing ingredients that are grown by our wonderful farmers and discovering the bounty that lies within the forests around us,” Dodge said. “This would not be possible without my hugely supportive wife, Molly who understands that this craft is my life.”