Marvel Comics immediately come to mind (perhaps because my nephew is obsessed)…like Dr. Doom, Kingpin, the Joker, Green Goblin, or the Penguin; but then there are ski movie villains like Roy Stalin in Better off Dead and Rudy Garmischt in Hot Dog; or spoof comedy villains like Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard in Austin Powers, or Dark Helmet in Spaceballs; even political villains, like Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney (sorry if I’m offending anyone). The possibilities are endless.
Needless to say, this year’s participating professional chefs put even more thought into their heroic or villainous themes as the idea behind each decadent dessert is just as creative and unique as the next. The Chocolate Lovers’ Fling is a benefit for the San Miguel Resource Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that aids domestic violence and sexual abuse victims in the region. Each year, the Fling raises roughly one-third of SMRC’s annual budget.
After winning “Best Interpretation of the Theme” last year, 221 South Oak’s chef/owner, Eliza Gavin, and her trusted pastry chef, Carly Kinselman, are pairing their fine dining acumen with the fast-food elements of burger, fries and a shake. Their bad guy? The infamous McDonald-Land Hamburglar, of course. “The Hamburglar is the villain,” explains Gavin with a chuckle. “But really, he was never a horrible villain; he was just hungry.” Without giving too much away, Gavin and Kinselman are going for a dish that’s half savory, half sweet. A longtime veteran to the Fling, for the past eight-or-so years, Gavin has several awards under her belt.
“Abuse is a very prominent occurrence whether you’re in a big city or a small town,” says Gavin. “SMRC is so needed and they do a great job. They have such a great crew working for them, and we are so happy to do something that supports their efforts.”
Another award winner who prefers to keep her ideas hidden beneath her mysterious chef’s cap is Rhiannon Chandler. As the pastry chef at Capella’s Onyx Restaurant, Chandler has participated the past two years (claiming two awards each time), and is entering the 2011 event as an independent. She will pay tribute to an “ongoing Telluride villain who has been a problem in town for quite some time,” in an effort to keep things local. Hmmm…a local villain dressed in chocolate? Is there such a thing? Well let me just say, I’m in on the secret and it’s a good one. “I’m hoping to win again,” she says, “but regardless whether you win or lose, it’s so much fun.”
Chandler inspired good friend Michael Goller of the Telluride School District to compete this year. Having tasted her concoctions for the past two years, Goller decided he would give his buddy a run for her money with a very unique spin on this year’s theme. “It’s sort of a corny title, but we named our dish, ‘Be Cool, Keep Coke out of School,’” Goller says. “Since I’m more or less a professional lunch lady, I decided Coke is our villain.” Goller is preparing his grandma’s famous Chocolate Cherry Coke Cake, his favorite dessert as a kid. “It’s been a bit challenging because I found out my grandma’s wasn’t exactly made from scratch, so I’m trying to recreate a non-box version,” he explains. “Let’s just hope it tastes good.”
Also new to the Fling is Dustin Smith of the Peaks Resort’s Palmyra Restaurant. “I’m going with Tron,” says a matter-of-fact Smith, explaining his inspiration came from a recent viewing of the movie. “It’s sort of a futuristic theme with futuristic gastronomic tools, like lotus bean gum and xanthum gum.” Considering I’m not really familiar with Tron, I intend to be thoroughly surprised. Smith, who originally hails from San Diego, has been with the Peaks since November and in Telluride since October. He’s looking forward to hurling himself into the community with such a widely adored event.
Stephen Roth from the Telluride Ski Resort is creating a rendition of a classic hero…none other than, 007. “We’re going with James Bond, mainly from Diamonds are Forever,” says Roth, who will feature some impeccably dressed fruit and creamy martinis, in addition to a savory dish (loosely inspired by Bond’s final meal in the film). “We thought it would be good if people had something substantial to eat, rather than just sweets.” This marks Roth’s second year participating in the Fling. “I just love it,” he says. “It’s such a great event to be part of and as soon as last year’s was over, I was already looking forward to this year.”
Taking another off-beat angle to the Heroes and Villains theme is Blakely Stein and her assistant Melissa Symberski of JB & Me, a private catering/private chef company. The duo will pay tribute to Japanese Anime.
“Melissa does all the baking – I’m just helping out – and she’s a big fan so we’re excited to dress the part and do something a little different,” says Stein. Keeping in line with Japan, the sweet treats will be a clever play on sushi, accompanied by a cacao, raw almond nut milk.
As far as villains are concerned, mobsters and gangsters certainly could be considered the icing on the cake. And in accordance with his restaurant’s native roots, Sergio Gonzales of the Telluride Bistro will feature quite a spread in the spirit of the Italian Mafia. “We’re going with the bad side and will be serving chocolate mousse ravioli with vanilla sauce, strawberries and mint,” says Gonzales, who is also preparing a sculpture of the ‘Godfather,’ donned in all sorts of chocolate.
A weathered Fling participant, Gonzales looks forward to the event every year. “It’s so much fun and it’s for a really good cause,” he says. “Some of the nicest people are involved and everyone puts in so much time and creativity.”
The 16th annual Chocolate Lovers’ Fling starts at 7:30 p.m. and lasts until 11:30 p.m. In addition to sweets galore, the event features DJ Harry, a 50/50 Raffle, silent auction and cash prizes for costumes. Tickets cost $50 and are available at Two Skirts and www.sanmiguelresourcecenter.org. Special thanks to all participating chefs, as well as to SMRC grantors: Telluride Foundation, Town of Mountain Village, Town of Telluride, and CCAASE.
Editor’s Note: The aforementioned chefs were those confirmed and reachable at press time; more will be present at the actual event.