Brian Tomlinson is executive chef at Trapp Family Lodge, and one of the
featured chefs at the Stowe Food and Wine Classic June 19-21.
Tomlinson attended culinary school in Punxsutawney, Pa. (yes, he has seen
Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day), and worked winters at Deer Valley Ski
Resort in Utah and summers at Roche Harbor Resort on San Juan Island, Wash.
He spent four years at resorts in Hawaii, then became chef de cuisine at
Normas at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, helping to make it a four-diamond
He then joined Trapp Family Lodge.
Question: What do you think about first when youre planning a dinner like
this one? Do you start with the entre and build from there? How do you build
up to an entire menu?
Answer: I dont start by thinking about any one particular dish; instead, I
just start writing down any idea that pops into my head that fits the
concept of the meal. Which in this case was Spanish wines and food.
I did some online research of Spanish regional cuisine and them, once I get
a bunch of ideas down on paper, I start mixing and matching until I get a
menu that I like.
Q. When do you start thinking about the wine?
A. Usually when creating food to pair with wines, we start with the wine
first. Jean-Luc, our food and beverage director, Scott Almquist and I will
sit down in the wine cellar and taste the wines and I will make a list of
flavors that we can taste and aromas that we can smell. Then I will use
these notes and make a dish that will complement these flavors and aromas.
In this case, we did not have the wines to taste, so I just made up a menu
that was based on Spanish cuisine and flavors, and sent it off to have the
wines paired with.
Q. Do you use tried-and-tested recipes for major events, or do you go out on
a limb with new things?
A. This is a special event that requires special food, so I always try to do
new things that I have not done before. Thats what makes them fun and pushes
me to be creative. I usually get my most creative ideas from creating wine
dinners and specialty menus Wich I then use in my restaurant menus at the
Q. How have peoples tastes changed over the years? Have you had to discard
some great recipes?
A. Great recipes are never discarded; they just evolve and change. I dont
ever find a recipe or dish to be perfect. I think its just because I get
bored with them after a while, so I try to change and improve them.
Q. How many people have to work on a major dinner like this? What does your
crew structure look like: sous-chefs, prep chefs, etc.?
A. We dont specifically have a banquet prep crew for doing special events,
so I just pull from my crew of restaurant cooks to prep and cook special
events like this one.
I will start prepping two days prior to the event with one or two other
cooks, and then have five or six cooks the day of to help get everything
together, and then you just need enough hands to plate up the food as fast
Q. Do you get nervous before a big show like this one?
A. Of course I get nervous, but its a good nervous that pushes me to do my
best. There is always stress in this business, but that what we as chefs
thrive on. If you dont like the stress, you should not be in the business.
Q. If youre cooking just for yourself, what do you like to eat?
A. It all depends on the season. If its summertime, I want to be outside
using the grill, so its very simple food grilled meats or fish with
Truth be told, I usually dont get home from work until late and am not in
the mood to cook (most of all, I dont want to have to do dishes), so I will
make an antipasta plate with cheese, assorted vegetables, olives, crackers
and whatever else I can find in the fridge, or I make myself a store-bought,