Your cheat sheet to some of this year's top talent.

By Stacey Ballis
June 13, 2019
Abby Hocking

As the 2019 Food and Wine Classic in Aspen gets nearer, it can be a little bit overwhelming for visitors to plan out their trip. The good news is that you really don’t have any bad choices—and there's a hand website and app to help you. The Classic attracts the best and brightest in the field, and no matter what excites you the most personally, from global cuisine to wine and spirits to important trends in restaurant practices, there is going to be something for everyone. But sometimes it can be this very abundance of riches that makes it difficult to decide what to do and who to go see! So here is a quick helpful guide to some of the highlights of this year’s event, and some people you might want to put on top of your to-do list.

Ashley Christensen

The 2019 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef is known as much for her restaurant management style as she is for her amazing takes on Southern comfort food. Her restaurants in Raleigh, NC are a model for how to run a business and support your staff, and she has written and spoken about the need for thoughtful and compassionate business management. You can see her Friday morning on the “Meet the Masters” trade panel with some other wonderful leaders in the industry.

Carla Hall

The beloved television cooking personality is bringing her infectious laugh and deeply personal approach to soul food to Aspen this year, and luckily there are a couple of events in the schedule where you can enjoy her energy. She will be moderating one of the Meet the Masters panels on Friday morning, and will be demoing her “Soul Food Summer Style” Friday afternoon.

Cheetie Kumar

The owner and chef of two restaurants in Raleigh, NC, a literal rock star with her band Birds of Avalon, and a passionate advocate for both southern cuisine and the culinary traditions of Southeast Asia, Cheetie is someone you don’t want to miss. She will be participating in the Inclusion: Hospitality’s Moment to Lead trade panel on Friday.

Jacques and Claudine Pepin

This dynamic duo need no introduction. Jacques’ brand of simple, elegant, and light French cookery have made him one of the most beloved culinary figures of our time. From his television shows to his 30+ cookbooks to his painting, Jacques is always a leader in the industry, with the honors to show for it. He introduced the world to his daughter Claudine on his shows, and she was a perfect sidekick for him on television and has become an accomplished cookbook author in her own right. You can watch them demo a Meal from Provence on either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.

Stephanie Izard

The powerhouse Chicago chef is known for her approach to both American and global cuisine, her historic Top Chef win, and her recent induction into the world of being an Iron Chef. From classic comfort diner fare, to her contemporary take on seasonal cookery, to an exploration of Chinese street food, she continues to wow diners with an approach to cooking that is at once thoughtful and a bit cheeky. Her travels in Peru were the inspiration for her latest restaurant venture, Cabra and she will be demonstrating some Peruvian influenced dishes on Friday afternoon.

JJ Johnson

His passion for cooking the foods of the African Diaspora comes through everything this James Beard nominated chef does, from his restaurants in NYC to his recent cookbook “Between Harlem and Heaven”. He will be doing a demo called “Rice is Culture” on Friday afternoon, exploring the amazing breadth of this ancient grain that he was introduced to on his travels, and showing how to cook it perfectly every time.

June Rodil

This award-winning Master Sommelier, and one of the first Asian women to achieve that title, was born in the Philippines and raised in Texas. If you are at all interested in wine, her demos are not to be missed. You can catch her exploration of white Burgundy on both Friday and Saturday afternoons, and a special event around premium sake on Sunday morning.

Nina Compton

Whether you know this James Beard Award winner for Best Chef South for her amazing New Orleans restaurants, or her fan-favorite runner-up season on Top Chef, she is someone you definitely want to catch this year! You can see her Friday afternoon on the Inclusion: Hospitality’s Moment to Lead panel, or at the Boulangerie Brunch cooking demo on Saturday morning.

Barbara Lynch

This triple-threat chef/restaurateur/author and is someone you should definitely make time to see. Only the second woman to win the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur for her Barbara Lynch Collective restaurant group in Boston, she is known for thoughtful, seasonal Italian cooking, learned from local women on her travels in Italy. Her cookbook and memoir were both critically acclaimed, and she was on Time Magazine’s list of the world 100 Most influential People in 2017. You can see her Italian cooking demo on Sunday morning.

Hunter Lewis and Ruth Reichl

If someone told you that the current editor of Food and Wine and the former editor of Gourmet and author of several bestselling food memoirs were going to sit down together for a conversation, you would want to be a fly on that wall. Luckily for you, they have decided to have that conversation publicly, along with some cooking! Be sure to catch the conversation and demo Bones, Apples, Garlic and Plums on Saturday morning.

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