Fourteen Colorado chefs competed in the 2009 "Taste of Elegance" on Thurs., Nov. 12. Number 15 would have been Ian Kleinman, Colorado's captain of molecular gastronomy and winner of the "Most Creative Chef" honors at the 2008 festival. Kleinman wasn't there because he was just RIFed from the Westin Westminster, where he had wowed Denver area foodies for 3 1/2 years with his cutting-edge culinary magic.
Before he left the the increasingly confining corporate culture at the Westin, he had prepared 103 spectacular tasting menus at O's. He documented them in words and images on food102.blogspot.com, his blog that is appropriately subtitled "A Collection of Inspirations." According to subtle rumor wafting around the edges of wine festival, Kleinman is setting his sights on opening his own restaurant, possibly on Larimer Square, where he and his liquid nitrogen tanks and other accouterments of molecular gastronomy would fit right in.
The mantle of the wine festival's most creative chef that Kleinman won last year now rests on the shoulders of Michael Long of Opus Dine in Littleton. Top overall honors went to Robert Corey of Modern Mexican, a Denver catering company that opened earlier this year. Meanwhile, Kurt Zuger, O's executive chef, and Christoph Schöttle, executive sous chef, are filling the void that Kleinman leaves -- except for the oh-so-innovative molecular gastronomy part.