Hands on Culinary
There are all sorts of delicious, entertainingand hands-on culinary options in Colorado that involve activities ranging from cooking classes and culinary competitions to helping out on the bottling line and tasting the spirits at a distillery. Themed and interactive food and beverage tours are an added bonus and available in a variety of destinations from Telluride, Vail and Grand Junction to Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Walk or pedal from location to location for the ultimate in experiencing a destination and its culinary scene.
Cooking Classes & Competitions
There are cooking schools sprinkled around the state where groups can do some team-building and learn at the same time like the Food Lab in Boulder and the Cooking School of Aspen, which also offers beverage classes and has sizeable meeting and event space. In the Denver metropolitan area, Uncorked Kitchen & Wine Bar in Centennial makes sure that all participants are students, cooks and diners during all classes and is introducing a new catered private event space. Create Cooking School in Aurora’s popular Stanley Marketplace helps groups spice up events by engaging up to 36 guests in a three-to four-hour experience that follows a food theme. In the heart of downtown’s LoDo district, Cook Street School of Culinary Arts presents groups of 10 to 35 guests with the opportunity to engage in a throw-down cooking competition or hands-on class featuring French, Italian or New American cuisine. A shorter version called Lighter Fare is a midday class that involves preparing two courses instead of three.
Destination management companies (DMCs) throughout Colorado also can help plan team-building options like chili, salsa, dessert and Dutch oven/open fire cook-offs, craft cocktail or margarita competitions, and more.
Hotel Chefs & Farmers’ Markets
If a group’s stay overlaps with farmers’ market days that take place all over the state in towns like Boulder, Vail, Aspen, Denver, Loveland andTelluride (typically from May through October), it’s a fun way to see what is raised in Colorado and buy ingredients for a class with a local cooking school or chef. In addition, Visit Grand Junction has offered groups a farmers’ market scavenger hunt. Most planners have probably noticed that hotel chefs are no longer staying behind closed kitchen doors. They are terrific on-site resources for creating unique menus, and many culinary teams are making themselves available for group culinary experiences like shopping at the local farmers’ markets and coming back to the hotel to create a meal. At Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, chefs were part of a pre-conference workshop “Chopped Kitchen” for the International Live Events Association’s annual conference that was a huge hit. At Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, the executive chef is integrating the property’s honey and garden not only into great dining experiences but classes as well.
Food Tours & Festivals
Food tours continue to pop up for an insider’s look at top culinary spots in towns like Vail, Telluride, Grand Junction, Denver, Fort Collins, Boulder and Colorado Springs. For example, Vail Valley Food Tours offers a Vail Village Food Walking Tour; Bikes & Bites; and Booze, Brews & Bites. Local Table Tours recently launched food and history tours in Fort Collins and also offers a whole menu of options in Denver and Boulder such as coffee and chocolate, coffee and doughnuts, farm-to-table and private dining tours, all providing a behind-the-scenes look into top restaurants and bars in each locale.
It’s hard to get more hands on than attending local food celebrations like the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival in Olathe, Colorado BBQ Challenge in Frisco, Pueblo Chile & Frijoles Festival in Pueblo, and Slow Foods Nation and Taste of Colorado in Denver. Schedule a gathering in tandem with one of these local events for easy entertainment outside of meeting time.
Farm Visits, Food Trucks & Food Halls
Dine at farms, vineyards and orchards in Boulder, Grand Junction, Palisade and Delta County or recruit local food trucks for a private street fair. It’s hard to beat picking your own peaches, cherries and apples and bringing them back for healthy break snacks. Colorado’s Western Slope towns are especially good for pick-your-own excursions.
Attendees should be ready to have their taste buds tingle when in Colorado!