I've been coming to the Classic for eight years, and I think it gets better each time. Here, some people who have made my weekend even more interesting:

1. Top Chef Hung Huynh and Jacques Pépin. Each year, the Culinary Institute of America sends 10 of their top students to the Classic to assist at the culinary demos. Last night, Beringer sponsored a party in their honor, and Jacques Pépin gave an inspiring speech, reminding the students chefs (or baby chefs, as we sometimes call them) to stick to their craft (and not aspire to TV fame), hone their skills, and say nothing more than "Yes, chef" for the next six or seven years they'll be training in professional kitchens. Hung, who was standing in front of me, nodded his head emphatically the entire time, and when it was over, he turned to his companion and said, "He's so good!" It's nice to see that TV fame hasn't diminished his respect for his craft in any way at all.

2. The volunteers. This year, I am most thankful to the volunteers in the Grand Tasting Tent who are tirelessly (and in some cases, even smilingly) manning the trash disposal. All throughout the tent are sets of three garbage bins: one for composting, one for recycling Fiji bottles, and one for plain old trash. At each station, there's a volunteer assisting people sort their trash. Not the most glamorous job, but so great. And it's made me realize that true garbage is kind of a bummer.

3. Restaurateur extraordinaire Drew Nieporent. Ok, flying into Aspen in a prop plane is no party, but this year, I thought I was done for when we crammed onto the tiny plane and proceeded to take off in 40+ mph winds. The saving grace (besides my colleagues who kindly let me clutch them in a death grip with each air pocket) was Drew Nieporent, who sat in front of us and talked cheerfully the whole way, even when we hit such a big air pocket that his water flew up and spilled all over him. Thank you, Drew. I hope you're on my plane next year.