“Writing a cookbook has long been a personal and professional dream. I’ve developed professional relationships with chefs and restaurateurs here over the past eight years, so showcasing their beloved dishes and stories in “The Aspen Cookbook” was the natural next step—as well as a major blessing during quarantine!” ~ Amanda Rae Busch
As a prolific Aspen-based freelance writer with a lifetime of experience in restaurants and hospitality, Amanda Rae Busch turned to what she knows best when it came time to help Aspen’s struggling restaurants during COVID-19—writing and food.
She immediately got to work curating and editing “The Aspen Cookbook,” collecting recipes from Aspen’s best chefs and most popular restaurants and adapting them for the home cook. Produced in conjunction with Young Professionals Network (a subcommittee of the Aspen Board of Realtors), a grant program was set up for donations and to collect proceeds from the sale of the cookbook. But it was also intended for the community during the shutdown—if they couldn’t go out to their favorite restaurants, the restaurants could come home to them.
Engel & Völkers: How did this project come about and why did you decide to get involved?
Amanda Rae Busch: The Aspen Board of Realtors/Young Professionals Network Aspen launched this project in spring 2020 as a socially distanced fundraiser to help restaurant workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. They hired me to produce “The Aspen Cookbook,” which ended up featuring 100+ recipes from 69 restaurants and chefs in the Roaring Fork Valley. Writing a cookbook has long been a personal and professional dream. I’ve developed professional relationships with chefs and restaurateurs here over the past eight years, so showcasing their beloved dishes and stories in “The Aspen Cookbook” was the natural next step—as well as a major blessing during quarantine! Cooking is what I do to de-stress. I am absolutely obsessed.
Engel & Völkers: What’s inside “The Aspen Cookbook”?
Amanda Rae Busch: Our table of contents represents a diverse mix of dishes for brunch, soups, salads, apps, main dishes, sweets, cocktails, and even a dog treat! Many of these are classic dishes beloved by locals (The Little Nell’s Lemon Soufflé Pancakes, a bestseller since the 1990s; Jimmy’s Famous Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, on his 1997 opening menu; Artichoke Bruschetta from Ellina, since 2009). Some are new dishes created during the pandemic with health in mind. I tried to tell the stories behind these dishes, too.
Engel & Völkers: What did you learn about Aspen’s culinary scene and culture that you didn’t know before? Tell us a little bit about the experience of putting this book together….
Amanda Rae Busch: It turns out that professional chefs don’t really use recipes, they cook by feeling and intuition. There were a lot of blanks to fill in from what I received, and I transcribed a number of recipes from phone conversations! But I’m fanatical about testing, and the process was fun for me. Readers are telling me that they value “The Aspen Cookbook” because the steps are easy to follow, no matter how complex the recipe. That feels good.
Engel & Völkers: What has the response been like?
Amanda Rae Busch: Hammering out 164-pages of “The Aspen Cookbook” under insane time constraints—from outline to press in less than six months—proves that it is possible with a lot of personal sacrifice. We’ve sold about 2,200 copies since early November. Now, I’m using this accomplishment to springboard to other media projects under my umbrella company, A Small Feast. I really want to write another cookbook!
Engel & Völkers: Favorite recipe?
Amanda Rae Busch: Oh, you’ll have to read my editor’s note! Get your copy here!
What is Engel & Völkers doing to help contribute to the Aspen restaurants?
We at Engel & Völkers in Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, and Carbondale, feel very strongly about giving back to our community. We have committed to matching all our Real Estate Advisor’s donations/book orders up to $2,500 individually in hopes of contributing a total of at least $5,000. We love our restaurants and want to see them all survive this pandemic! We look forward to dining with you all once we are on the other side of this!