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Winston Churchill Dinner Hopes to Benefit Sun Valley’s Culinary Experience
Susan Greenspan helped Patti McGrath and Jill Pollock create the setting with Winston Churchill figurines, scarves, ties, books, and even matchbooks.
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Sunday, October 1, 2023


Winston Churchill once remarked that he loved good food, beautiful homes and gracious hosts

Given that, Churchill would’ve felt right at home at the Greenspan home near Ketchum this week. Not only would he have enjoyed his favorite champagne and cigars, but there was a bonus: 19 pounds of Idaho-raised Wagyu prime rib beef, which undoubtedly surpassed any cut of beef Churchill was served during his lifetime.

“Winston Churchill was good friends with Averell Harriman who founded Sun Valley Resort. I’m sure that Averill told him about Sun Valley. And I’m sure he would have loved visiting Sun Valley Lodge and partaking of a good meal like this,” said Lee Pollock, a Sun Valley homeowner who is considered one of the country’s leading authorities on Winston Churchill.

Lee Pollock addresses guests ahead of dinner.

The Churchill Dinner was the inspiration of four Sun Valley Culinary Institute board members who decided it would be a creative way to raise money to provide scholarships and board for students enrolled in the Sun Valley Culinary Institute’s professional chef course.

“Winston said, ‘We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give,’ and this is a fine example of that,” said Pollock.

Ron Greenspan smoked Snake River Farms’ Wagyu Prime Rib over oak on his backyard barbecue, getting a workout as sawed through 19 pounds of beef. Jill Pollock prepared a very tasty creamed baby spinach with crispy leek shards and roasted rosemary potatoes. Patti McGrath cooked up porcini consommé with homemade cheese straws, Yorkshire pudding and traditional English trifle with strawberries and chocolate mousse.

And Kristin Hovencamp joined the others in preparing American beluga caviar on tiny blinis with crème fraiche. eggs and chives.

The dinner included Wagyu prime rib, creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding and roasted rosemary potatoes. Winston Churchill liked his meat medium rare or rare—he had a distaste for overcooked meat.

The chefs went to great pains to include Churchill’s favorite Johnnie Walker Black Label and Pol Roger Brut Champange. They poured extra smooth Chateaux Margaux and a very special Chateau Giscours Grand Cru Margaux wines.

And, just as Churchill would have expected, there was vintage port, Sauternes and Bas Armagnac and cigars served alongside dessert.

“We asked: What would Winston eat and drink?” said Greenspan.

All 18 dinner seats sold out within 24 hours of invitations being emailed to supporters of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute. Daniel Aja and his wife even took time out from their vacation in Greece to reserve their spot, then arrived back in home just in time to attend.

Jill Pollock and Kristin Hovencamp bring out the trifle and chocolate mousse.

Pollock told diners that the dinner table was very important to Churchill. It’s where, he said, he rewarded friends and where he won over adversaries in all matter of subjects. One dinner guest said, “I found him completely uninflated. It is a marvel how much time he gives to his guests, talking sometimes for an hour after lunch and much longer after dinner. He is an exceedingly kind and generous host, providing unlimited Champagne, cigars and brandy.”


“I’m wowed,” said Anita Braker, who attended with Dave Olsen. “Wowed by the menu. Wowed by the undertaking. Wowed by the whole flavor of the evening. And I love hearing the commentary that Lee Pollock added.

Pollock’s wife Jill Pollock has heard tons of Churchill stories by virtue of being married to Lee. She noted that Churchill fought with the Spanish on horseback in Cuba.

Guests had plenty of time for socializing ahead of dinner.

“To think he went from fighting war by horseback to fighting war with nuclear bombs—it really gives you a glimpse of the breadth of the man,” she said. “He switched political parties during his career, setting an example for others: If something isn’t working, try something else.”

Contrary to popular belief, Lee Pollock said, Churchill was not an alcoholic. Rather, he was a man who had a considerable capacity for alcohol.

His affinity for drinking dated back to when he was a 25-year-old war correspondent covering the Boer War. He added scotch or whiskey to the drinking water in India to make it more palatable and prevent disease.

White House staffers during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration noted that Churchill started the morning with a daily whiskey mouthwash. Consumption of alcohol continued through most of his waking hours without noticeable effect, they added. 

“He said, ‘I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me,’ ” Pollock said.

Jill Pollock said she was delighted to cook and serve the dinner in order to better give young people in the Wood River Valley a chance to find passion in cooking.

“This is a win-win—help someone find their passion and maybe a career in food service, whether cooking or doing something like designing restaurants or even working with Farmers Market. And give  restaurants who need staff some well-trained students who will hopefully stay in the valley. Sun Valley Company needs help. The Limelight Hotel needs help. Scott Mason needs help.”

Patti McGrath said she, too, loved putting the dinner on.

“I’m food crazy—I grew up in the gourmet ghetto of Berkeley when Alice Waters was popularizing the slow food movement. And my mother is Italian so I grew up enjoying great food. I love how people come together over great meals. And Lee does a great job so you get the extra benefit of learning about  Churchill during the evening.”


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