Aspen Cooking School returns as chef's "passion project"

Feb 3, 2016

Rob Ittner stands in the space of the Cooking School of Aspen.
Credit Patrick Fort / Aspen Public Radio

The Cooking School of Aspen is making a comeback. Local restaurateur Rob Ittner is rebuilding it and hopes to make the school a destination, more than a decade after it closed.


Rob Ittner kind of looks like a chef you’d imagine in a movie. Some stubble. Glasses. Short hair. He is a kitchen veteran. He’s went to culinary school, and even taught at one. He’s owned multiple restaurants. Now he’s taking on another endeavor. Reopening the Cooking School of Aspen.


It’s a place where people can learn all sorts of cooking techniques like pasta making and pickling.

Ittner is the owner of Rustique Bistro; the restaurant that happens to be right above the school. He says the reopened space will provide another outlet for people in town. His methodology is simple. What are the first things people ask when they get into town? What are we going to do for fun? Where are we going to go, and what are we going to eat? He has the solution.


“They’ll be entertained, they’ll be eating," says Ittner. "They’ll have an experience. They can sign up for a daytime class, a morning class, an afternoon class…”


The construction of the school is in progress. Multiple contractors have been working on the construction of what Ittner calls his “passion project.”


He wants to fill a void in the culinary and recreational environment.


“It creates a space for culinary activity to happen," he says. "It creates a new venue for people to do something in town other than ski and hike. You can’t ski and hike every day.”


Another gap that Ittner hopes the school will fill is one of venue size. He says there isn’t a place in downtown Aspen for 100 or 200 people. Only bigger and smaller.


“There’s really a gap in town for that size," says Ittner. "Restaurants are typically too small and they don’t like to close down for a night to do that sort of an event, and ballrooms are typically too big.”


The goal is to eventually have tasting classes and demonstrations.


According to the Cooking School’s website, a whole crew of local chefs are on board to help:

Susie Jimenez and Barclay Dodge.


Ittner says that the financial risk is always a concern when opening a restaurant in Aspen.


The Cooking School of Aspen plans to reopen early next month. Ittner says that he already has events booked in the space.