Chefs’ Holiday Program at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee A Foodie’s Winter Wonderland

Top culinary talents and Yosemite’s natural beauty share the menu with cooking demos, chef receptions and gala dinners during this annual celebration.

Cooks Meadow, Yosemite

Meadow winterscape in Yosemite National Park. Image: Kenny Karst

There’s yet another reason to love Yosemite, one of the country’s most celebrated national parks, especially if you are someone who appreciates fine dining. In addition to epic natural wonders that include cascading waterfalls and majestic granite massifs, for three weeks each winter the jaw-dropping beauty of Yosemite is also home to mouth-watering cuisine prepared by some of America’s most notable chefs.

Ahwahnee hotel in winter

The Ahwahnee

Now in its 26th year, the annual Chefs’ Holidays event is a celebration of culinary excellence held at the stately AAA Four Diamond Ahwahnee hotel, itself a Yosemite landmark since the resort opened in 1927. Running this year from January 9 to February 4, the Chefs’ Holiday program brims with activities certain to keep foodies hungry for more, including informative chef demos, receptions where attendees can mix and mingle, behind-the-scenes kitchen tours at The Ahwahnee, and gala dinners held in the hotel’s grand dining room — an expansive marvel of soaring timber and spectacular mountain views.  In total, this year’s Chefs’ Holidays is bringing together 29 prominent American chefs — including the likes of Providence’s Michael Cimarusti and Douglas Keane of Cyrus — from across the country during eight separate two-to-three day sessions.  And while packages combining both tickets to Chefs’ Holidays sessions and accommodations at either The Ahwahnee hotel or Yosemite Lodge are available, the events are open for all to enjoy, drawing both locals and guests from other properties as well.

Chefs' Holidays, The Ahwahnee

Cooking demo in Ahwahnee's Great Lounge

This week’s demos featured innovative tastemakers such as Chef Colin Ambrose of Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor, NY, and Chef Jesse Ziff Cool of Flea St. Café in Menlo Park, CA. During a morning demo held yesterday in The Ahwahnee’s Great Lounge, Chef Ambrose shared tips on how to wow family and friends with one of the Little Café’s most popular dishes, A Pop’s Breakfast Bowl, a brunch-time favorite featuring aromatic quinoa, chicken in a spicy sauce, fresh veggies and an egg white mix.  (A favorite haunt of celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick, Little Kitchen serves up another breakfast item popular with patrons, “Big Al’s Burrito,” named after Baldwin, its biggest fan).

An afternoon demo featured the organic culinary stylings of Cool, a long-time proponent of locally sourced, organic cuisine, who has been both promoting and preparing a sustainable menu for 30 years at her restaurant. Cool demonstrated how to prepare a delectable, savory winter greens and egg salad, brimming with radicchio, endive, dandelion, green onions, capers and eggs, then let attendees sample the results.

But the main event at any of the Chefs’ Holiday sessions has to be the Gala Dinner, and this week’s session was no different. Chef Michael Tusk of San Francisco’s vaunted Quince restaurant got sustained applause from a full house in The Ahwahnee’s main dining room for an Italian-inspired five course meal paired with top California wines. Starting with a La Tercera Farm Pumpkin Soup embellished with wild mushroom and fried sage, and finishing with a medallion of Sonoma Liberty Duck topped with chestnut, Jerusalem artichoke puree and Barolo wine sauce, courses were paired with wines such as a 2008 Monterey County Gewurztraminer by Thomas Fogarty and a Karly Zinfandel from Amador County.

Considering all the incredible feasting to be had at the Chefs’ Holidays, guests can be thankful for the miles of world-class walking and hiking trails that are just steps away to help work-off some of that exquisite excess.

Chefs’ Holidays Packages

Special two- and three-night packages for Chefs’ Holidays are available at The Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, which includes lodging for two and admission for two to the following: three culinary demonstrations, private “Meet the Chefs” reception, behind the scenes kitchen tour, and five-course Chefs’ Holidays Gala Dinner with wines to complement in The Ahwahnee Dining Room. Rates are based on double occupancy, subject to change, and do not include room taxes.

Individual tickets for the Gala Dinner are available for $269 per person, including tax and gratuity.

Two- and three-night package prices:
THE AHWAHNEE: $995; $1,245

For more information on Yosemite Chefs’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee or to make reservations, call 801-559-4903 or click here for details, including the full schedule of events.

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