How local culinary school elevates Boulder’s charm

Escoffier marries classical technique + hands-on experience

By Tatyana Sharpton Nov 12 2020

Outside of showcasing good food as the star ingredient, the precision at Boulder’s higher-end restaurants goes right to clean cuts, distinct flavors and presentation.

Along with its abundance of local agriculture that attracts chefs, Boulder offers a professional culinary education at its Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, just off of Table Mesa at 637 South Broadway Street, an accredited culinary school.

Young chefs from all over come to Boulder to study food, like Bluebird Sky Farmstead’s co-owner Danny Dunlap who moved to Boulder from Orlando, Florida, to attend. While some, like Danny, transitioned into farming, other grads like Danny’s Escoffier peer Aaron Lande co-founded Eridu Ancient Grains Boulder, which up until recently had a stall at Rosetta Hall (now transitioned to more farm diners).

The school works closely with many local restaurants, such as Frasca Food and Wine, Oak, Blackbelly and Santo, and both Flagstaff House’s executive chef Chris Royster and Moxie Bread Co.’s founder Andy Clark sit on Escoffier’s advisory board.

Chris Blackwood, executive chef at Avery Brewing Co. since the company expanded its operation to include food six years ago, has seen about eight or nine students from Escoffier come through his kitchen doors. Working in a high-volume restaurant like Avery, serving 500 people a day (pre-Covid, probably) can seem daunting, but the Escoffier students and graduates Chris has worked with all come ready to dive in.

Chris Blackwood

“I’m impressed with them wanting to be part of a high volume restaurant,” Chris says.

The school’s programs focus on a holistic approach to the food process, infusing it with entrepreneurship and business management skills and building cooking techniques for a professional kitchen setting.

Kirk Bachmann

“If I’m going to serve some beautiful pork — and [Black Cat Farm’s] Erik Skokan works with those artisan hogs,” says Kirk Bachmann, president of Escoffier Boulder, “I don’t want to mask and cover those rich flavors … not cook it for 12 hours.”

Kirk, who hails from a long line of pastry chefs moved to Boulder with his family in 2014 from Chicago to help lead Escoffier. A passionate chef himself, Kirk worked with another culinary group in Illinois and partnering with Triumph, wanted to help make culinary education needs to more accessible and affordable.

“Boulder gave us this amazing opportunity,” says Kirk, “to really partner with local farmers, and a culture of sustainability. Boulder is a great food town, highlighted by quality farmers’ market, amazing restaurants and a community of food lovers.”

[Boulder’s Flagstaff House Restaurant gets a refresh]

One of Escoffier’s students in the kitchen. Image: Jimena Peck.

A white-coat lineage

Before Escoffier launched in 2011, the Culinary School of the Rockies operated the school, producing graduates like Elliott Toan, who co-owns Arcana and as well as Boulder’s tiki bar Jungle.

In 2010, Illinois-based Triumph Higher Education Group acquired the school and re-opened it as Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts a year later. Today, the school represents Boulder’s only brick-and-mortar, professional cooking schools. (The other two being The School of Natural Cookery, which Boulder’s amateur cooking school, Food Lab, founder Casey Easton attended, that no longer has a physical headquarters.)

Shortly after launching its Boulder program, the parent company also launched a second location in Austin, Texas. Kirk says the school’s launch in both cities happened somewhat serendipitously, but also because the group wanted to have a presence in “two really cool places in the country.”

Triumph named the school after French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846 — 1935), hailed by the culinary world as the “father of modern cuisine” and known for cooking for the world’s royalty and bourgeois, and establishing a chain of command in the kitchen.

Escoffier offers an accredited diploma and associate degrees in culinary and pastry arts, teaching both classical and modern approaches to industry skills. Students get a sustainability-focused understanding of where food comes from and have to complete an offsite internship, working with a local farmer or artisan producer as well as an industry “externship” such as working in a restaurant kitchen. The school also offers a distance learning program which attracts students from as far as India and United Arab Emirates.

With its local industry partnerships, Escoffier students can lean into the unique wisdom Boulder’s community offers, like learning about native grasses and flours through Moxie’s Andy as he works with farmers to grow different crops for artisan flours with different complexities, which he sells.

[Caribbean rum + jungle vibes at Boulder’s only tiki bar Jungle]

Header image: Class in session. Image: Jimena Peck.