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Cowboy Cuisine Aids Sun Valley’s Culinary Arts Scene
Monday, September 11, 2023


Rhinestones combined with Sun Valley Chef’s Adam Fisher’s flash-grilled Lamb T-Bones and Cowboy Beans Saturday night to further the culinary arts in the Sun Valley area.

Chef Rodrigo Herrera of Vintage Restaurant served up Elk Meatloaf with Hunters Sauce; Tom Nickel of the Sawtooth Club, cowboy-Italian style lamb and bison meatballs, and Dang Chanthasuthisom of Dang’s Thai Cuisine, grilled salmon with curry at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute’s Fall Gathering.

Country singer Kurt Van Meter played “Livin’ on Tulsa Time” while guests sipped Moscow Mules and Riverain Wine.  

The Fall Gathering was held at the Elk Run Ranch in Deer Creek. Three years ago, the area was just dirt and dandelions, said neighbor Sherry Thorson. But Mike Clayville, a native of Rupert, and his wife Corry, who hails from Chicago, purchased a hundred acres under towering aspen along the Big Wood River and built the perfect party barn and home.

She was quick to volunteer the barn and corral area for the Sun Valley Culinary Institute where she serves on the board.

“Food and wine is my passion,” said Clayville, who co-chaired Saturday’s event with Kristin Hovencamp.

The Sun Valley Culinary Institute opened three years ago with a mission to teach prospective chefs who might contribute to the culinary scene in the Wood River Valley and to offer food classes and special events for food and wine enthusiasts.

Students engage in a unique year-long program that includes a few months of classroom instruction where they learn knife handling, how to debone a chicken and other kitchen basics. They get hands-on experience in the fast-paced restaurant world by working in Sun Valley kitchens during the busy summer and winter seasons.

The Culinary Institute Director Karl Uri introduced a line of students ranging from alumni to students who will graduate in a week to students who will start the program this month to the crowd.

“It’s been an incredible experience to bring this to life …to work through the pandemic,” said Karl Uri.

Lack of guidance is one of the reasons young people fall in and out of the profession so quickly, noted Dan Kish, acting culinary instructor.

 The SVCI model –a combination of in-class education and apprenticeship—seeks to overcome that as they learn about the intensity of restaurant work at such restaurants as CKs, Tundra, Sawtooth Club, The Ram, The Konditeroi and other restaurants, Kish added.

Jonathan Watson, who grew up in the Wood River Valley, has been working at the happiest place on earth—aka Disney—where he’s gotten to cook an array of ethnic foods from German to African.

River Greenfield, who grew up in Boise, now works at Boise’s new Season + Taste, which offers cooking classes for children, adults and families.

“At first, my boss was reluctant to let me teach classes. Then she realized that I had gotten a good foundation at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute,” said Greenfield.

The silent auction table at Saturday’s event included an array of culinary experiences, including a four-day Alaskan culinary excursion, an apres-ski fondue party for 24 and dinner prepared in one’s home by Rodrigo Herrera of Vintage Restaurant.

In the live auction a Taste of Chicago trip went for $6,250 and a culinary tour of Seattle, for $7,500.

A private dinner in for 12 in a private home prepared by two James Beard Award-winning chefs who took part in this summer’s inaugural Sun Valley Food and Wine Festival went for $20,000. And two different bidders ponied up $11,000 each for a visit to the FRIAS Family Vineyard in Napa.

Sherry Wellsandt was among those who enjoyed the opportunity to dress up in cowboy clothes.

“I’ve been to some of the dinners at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute, and they’re beautiful,” she said.  “It’s a wonderful place and I want to support them. I want to see them survive.”


Chef Laurent Loubot will share his passion for French food, including Tartiflette and La Tarte Alsacienne,  from 6 to 8 p.m. Oc. 21. Learn more at

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