Ute City has a new executive chef and Rob McClanahan isn’t new to this game. Matter of fact, Chef Rob has been cooking since 1981 and has been cooking in Aspen for over 20 years. He has worked at some of the best restaurants here spending eight years at Parlour Car to some of the more casual ones cooking for three years at Little Annie’s.
Speaking with Rob you understand there is more to cooking for him than putting heat to food. Rob is a historian and food history is a passion of his. Our interview was peppered with references to the spice trade and wars and how food is inherent to many cultures around the world. “Americans lost track of our food history when fast food became popular – we don’t sit down as a family anymore.” When I asked Rob the three people who would like to have dinner with, his reply? “Casey, Sarah and Will, my three children”.
Skiing was certainly a factor as to why he chose to move to Aspen after graduating from the California Culinary Academy (He also has a marketing management degree from Virgina Polytech Institute.) Like most chefs who work in a seasonal business he would leave during the off season and head over to Europe to cook. “I’ve spent many months traveling Europe with just a backpack and my knives.” His travels through Europe were a good teacher for Ute City’s Mediterranean inspired menu.
Given his vast travel experience I was curious as to what is the strangest thing he’s eaten. I really liked his response, strange to whom? “Eating dried grasshoppers in Thailand isn’t strange there, but it is here.” Fair enough, but, I’ve eaten dried grasshoppers here right around the corner from Ute City.
His philosophy on cooking is simple, be flexible and open to change. One of the best things a chef can have is the ability to change – and know the basics of cooking and be able to adapt food to modern times.
Ok, on to the quick fire round of questions:
Go to meal: Salmon with greens like kale or chard.
Three things you always have in your refrigerator: Kumbucha (fermented tea), ice water and chipotles.
What are three things people don’t know about you? I’m not really a loud person or a perfectionists (his wait staff and line cooks may not agree), I’m a prolific reader and I still feel like a kid. I think there is a lot of good left yet to experience.