A 30-year celebration in Aspen

This is part of Restaurant Hospitality’s special coverage of the 2012 Food & Wine Classic held in Aspen, Colo., June 15-17.

I’m here in Aspen to celebrate and cover the 30th anniversary of the Food & Wine Classic, which is about as close to heaven as any foodie can get (we are, after all, 8,000 feet high). Aspen is such a small town that it’s not rare during this three-day event to cross paths with culinary gods such as Mario Batali, Giada DeLaurentiis, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio, Danny Meyer and so on.

For the privilege of rubbing elbows with such luminaries, one had to pony up $1,225 (luckily this cowboy got a press pass). It’s a lot of money, but the value is there. It must be or the event wouldn’t have sold out so quickly and so completely. More than 5,000 people will be watching cooking demos, attending wine tastings, participating in interactive seminars and panel discussions and, most of all, partying like there’s no tomorrow [Let’s not forget the Mayans predict there will be no more tomorrows by year’s end.]

For all of this I begrudgingly tip my hat to Food & Wine magazine for putting on such a terrific event in the thin, mountainous air of Aspen. But I go back a long way with the Classic, some 20-plus years, when it was a quaint gathering in a charming mountain town. Let’s just say this event is no longer quaint, not unless you think the Superbowl is quaint. And though I should be used to it by now, it still makes my smurk to see people running up to Michael Symon as if he were Brad Pitt. I dare say some people here would run over Brad Pitt to get Symon’s autograph.

I guess that’s the price of success. The lines are long, the traffic in tiny Aspen resembles Times Square and getting a restaurant reservation borders on the impossible. But I won’t lament too long about all this because there’s another five  parties I have to get to . . . Ciao!