Willows Inn Chef Blaine Wetzel Wows Aspen Food & Wine Classic Crowd

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Blaine Wetzel, the wunderkind chef from Willows Inn on Lummi Island, was named one of the nation’s Best New Chefs by Food & Wine Magazine, his increasingly famous face featured on the cover of the July issue.

One of the perks of this recognition is an invitation to the Aspen Food & Wine Festival, a slightly overwhelming – in a good way – event held this weekend.

During the three days of seminars, demos and Grand Tastings, the lineup of best new chefs showed off their cooking skills by feeding hungry crowds of consumers. Chefs Wetzel and Madison Park Conservatory’s Cormac Mahoney appeared Friday and Saturday afternoons, respectively.

Wetzel used venison from British Columbia to create a tartare garnished in juniper. A nod to his tenure at NOMA in Copenhagen perhaps? Well, maybe, but he pointed out that he collected the delicate juniper clippings from his backyard.

Consumers were asked to vote for their favorite bites by texting selections to Twitter. Then again, all the chefs making a splash at this star-studded event were winners.