Chef Q&A with Bistro 14’s Anne Armstrong
An interview with Anne Armstrong, pastry chef at Bistro 14. Part of an ongoing series to get to know the talent behind our delicious food options on mountain and in town.
Q: Where are you from? What brought you to Vail?
I grew up in Wisconsin. I found my way to Vail after Culinary School in Grand Junction. I was hired at Larkspur to help out with their pastry team in 2004.
Q: What does food mean to you, and what inspires you about being a Chef?
Food has always been a large part of my life. My mom is a ‘recipe tester’ for cooking magazines so I was brought up around a very busy kitchen. I was also taught to look at a recipe and wonder how it could be improved or tweaked. One thing that inspires and challenges me is creating my own recipes. It’s kind of my MO to find a recipe and try a bunch of variations until I am completely sure it’s the best version. With pastry, you can’t always tweak as you go, you have to be patient and wait for the end result to see what can be improved. I think it took me a month of making doughnuts every day until I fine-tuned the recipe I use now.
Like a lot of people, some of my favorite traditions and memories revolve around food- we ate fresh baked bread and homemade soup every Sunday dinner, my mom’s amazing cinnamon rolls on any weekend getaway, hand churned ice cream in the summer.
The process of making the food was always celebrated as much as the end result. I have such great memories of picking and hulling 1000’s of strawberries with my sister and mom so we could have strawberry jam all winter long. The smell of cinnamon still makes me think of going to the local orchard on crispy fall mornings to stock up for cinnamon applesauce.
The other part of what inspires me as a Chef is to create an experience like that for someone, for people to share a moment and create a memory around good seasonal food, captured in its finest form.
Q: Current favorite ingredient(s) to cook with, or style of cooking?
I found some incredible ruby red plums in Palisade and I’ve been going plum crazy- Plum Caramel, plum shrub, plum soda floats, plum sorbet, plum crisp, plum jam…I could go on. But really, I’m just obsessed with whatever is at its peak at the Farmer’s Market. I hauled 4 cases of nectarines and 4 cases of peaches up the Gondola to Eagles Nest last week alone. I can never get enough!
Q: Proudest moment in your Chef career?
I guess it hasn’t happened yet.
Q: Describe the food culture in Vail, and some highlights.
I am happy that farm fresh food is on trend and so many local restaurants are embracing it. Picking a favorite place is tricky but I have always had wonderful food at Mountain Standard and I usually recommend it to friends. I also like Bol, Remedy, Boxcar– and Hovey and Harrison is one of my new places of interest.
I love the Farmer’s Market, it really has expanded in the last few years. The Farmer’s Market dinners that they do throughout the summer are such a magical experience as well- I would definitely recommend going if you haven’t yet
Q: If you weren’t a Chef, what would you be doing?
I think working in the test kitchen at Cook’s Illustrated would be pretty cool!