local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 last week
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs



Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of February 19 - 25, 2003


Tastes of Idaho
travel well

Valley chefs work magic in Manhattan

Express Staff Writer

Unbeknownst to much of the rest of the world, there’s more to the tastes of Idaho than potatoes. To prove it a trio of chefs from the Gem State—Keith Otter, Kenny Rudolph and Brian Hutchins—accepted an invitation to turn a collection of Idaho produce, fish and elk into a gourmet dinner last week for 75.

The invitation came from the James Beard Foundation in New York through the sponsorship of Glacier Potato Vodka.

Such a theme dinner is part of a long tradition. After chef and author James Beard died in 1985, Julia Child decided to preserve his home in New York City as the gathering place it was throughout his life. Over the years the Beard Foundation has become a national arena for American cuisine.

Chefs are invited to prepare meals in Beard’s Greenwich Village townhouse. Beard’s home has workspace unchanged to accommodate chefs more used to commercial kitchens. In fact, that’s one of the challenges of cooking there, said Otter, who’s been invited to cook three times in five years.

Attendees for the dinner Feb. 12, included editors and writers from national culinary magazines and foundation members.

Otter graduated from the California Culinary Academy and came to the valley when his brother-in-law, Rex Chandler opened Chandler’s in Ketchum. At Chandler's and subsequently at his own restaurant, Otter's, he became known for his contemporary take on Pacific Northwest cuisine. Last April, he returned to helm Chandler’s and Baci, as the executive chef.

Kenny Rudolph, the chef di cuisine at Baci, credits Otter as his inspiration to change his career. A long-time employee at Microsoft, he grew up learning about food and cooking from his Japanese mother, who’s also a chef. Rudolph is clearly passionate about the use of indigenous produce in his cooking.

Brian Hutchins, the third chef at the New York dinner, is the owner of Brix in Coeur d'Alene. A native of Idaho, Hutchins has been cooking for more than 17 years. He worked at such renowned New York spots as Union Square Cafe, Vong and Prune.

It took four months to plan and create a menu for the dinner, Otter said. "It’s nothing but hard work. You have to believe in the cause because we’re promoting the culinary art."

Hutchins flew to Ketchum from Coeur d’Alene for three days of collaborating so they could finalize the menu.

"When you do that, there’s a certain amount of pure creativity," said Rudolph.

"You need to create completely new food," Otter added. "Even if you have a signature dish and you think it’s flawless but the other chefs say ‘something’s off,’ you work on it. You leave your ego at the door. The majority rules."

Otter’s signature Black Canyon Elk was included, as was a Ruby Red Trout dish of Hutchins.

"The most important thing was this Beard Foundation dinner," Otter continued. "To be asked to go there is an honor."

The appetizers were all made with Glacier Potato Vodka, which is distilled north of Idaho Falls. In 2001, the Beverage Tasting Institute rated Glacier as the fourth-best vodka in the world.

Both Otter and Hutchins are executive chefs, which means they plan the menu and oversee the cooking, but are not behind the stove, necessarily. At the Taste of Idaho dinner all that was moot.

Only the chefs worked in the small kitchen. They had no assistants, or as Otter put it, "no armies. It’s one of the more challenging catering events ever. You have to make gourmet food in a non-gourmet kitchen with non-gourmet utensils. I’ve seen better kitchens in private homes in Ketchum."

The chefs spent one whole day shopping in New York to supplement the foods that were shipped overnight from Idaho. They spent another day just prepping, and then arrived to work at noon on the day of the dinner, where they continued to prep and cook until the feast was served, beginning with hors d’oeurves at 7 p.m.

"It’s customary for the guests to go to the kitchen first," Otter said. "They watch you cook. Their philosophy is to get the chefs back to their love of cooking."

Professional wait staff and volunteers from culinary schools served the dinner on three separate levels of the home.

"It’s incredible, really, but that’s what’s fun about it," Rudolph said. Their day ended at 11:30 p.m., and they flew home Thursday.

Much of the food they used from Idaho was donated, Otter said. "If we’d have had to pay, it would have cost $10,000."

Companies that donated the food and wine were Trinity Springs, Bigwood Bread, Mountain Fresh Produce, Flown In Fresh, Idaho Trout Processors, Idaho Potato Commission, Sysco Food Services and the three restaurants the chefs represent.

Several wineries in Washington, California and Oregon donated wine, as did the Ketchum-based label Phantom Hill.

Among the homegrown Idaho foods the chefs used for the dishes were turnip, parsnip, rabbit, corn, horseradish, celery root, huckleberry, wild ginger, peach, caviar, sturgeon and salmon. "We’re promoting food that’s clean to us," Otter said. "And a lot of people don’t understand where their food comes from."

Hutchins, Otter and Rudolph agreed on one major point. "We tried hard not to try too hard. We wanted to keep it simple, but have it look sophisticated. We let the ingredients speak for themselves."

Of course, they did end up using potatoes to go with the elk —crispy potato cups filled with smoked trout, apple, horseradish and glacier vodka cream, and parsnip and potato risotto in a puff pastry—because even Idahoans know spuds are one of the key tastes of Idaho.

Ski Reports


Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League



Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.