Back of the House
Telluride’s Top Chef: Eliza Gavin By Eileen Burns • Photo by Carmel Zucker
At first glance, chef and cookbook author Eliza Gavin’s beguiling bistro, 221 South Oak, appears to have been transported from a Left Bank neighborhood in Paris to its equally quaint location in the heart of downtown Telluride. Warm, earthy tones emanate throughout the 44-seat restaurant. The walls showcase vibrant landscapes brushed by contemporary expressionist Mar-
18 edible SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS WINTER 2010
shall Noice. Crisp white tablecloths and fresh flowers dress each table. A garden patio offers summer guests a sunny location for Sunday brunch or an alternative to indoor dining. The intimate bar features a considerable wine selection, spotlighting wines from around the world, including several from Sutcliffe Vinyards of Cortez, Colorado. Eliza’s culinary influences are woven into a thoughtfully crafted menu that reflects a unique take on New American cuisine. Her culinary combinations draw on traditional flavors, reminiscent of down-home Southern cooking, provincial French fusion, New Orleans hodgepodge, and classic California cuisine. “I cook with seasonal, fresh vegetables and fruits that I buy from several local growers,” says Eliza, “as well as local cheeses and the finest seafood, game, and poultry available in the region.” Her menu features Rocky Mountain elk chops, Colorado striped bass, New-Orleans-style barbequed shrimp, braised Colorado lamb shank, seared rare ahi tuna, filet mignon and duck breast. A fresh-faced mountain woman with an athletic build and an infectious smile, Eliza has a penchant for travel, which has given her an appetite for exotic foods. Her website boasts, “On her 21st birthday she ate a camel burger for lunch, emu paté for tea, and kangaroo steak for dinner.” Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Eliza attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she received a degree in psychology. “While in school I needed a distraction,” she says, “so I applied to fine-dining restaurants and ended up the kitchen manager. I loved the creativity I was given to come up with new ideas.” Following graduation, Eliza moved to New Orleans, where she honed her cooking skills at Galatoire’s, a 100-year old, familyowned Bourbon Street mainstay that features authentic French Creole cuisine. She also worked at Mr. B’s Bistro, a popular lunch spot in the French Quarter. With a thirst for knowledge, Eliza soon moved on to Napa Valley and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). After the CIA, she traveled to France and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, considered by many to be the world’s
Telling the story of local food throughout Southwest Colorado and The Four Corners.