Gutsy is one way to describe a 27-year-old who plasters her own name on a new restaurant, but Kelly Liken pulled it off. Five years ago she took over a tired Chinese eatery at the entrance to Vail Village in Colorado and transformed it into Restaurant Kelly Liken, a chic spot focusing on the best of the local bounty. “This is our favorite eatery in Vail,” Frommers' editors decreed. Last year Bon Appetit featured Liken in a profile of top women chefs. Liken, who graduated first in her Culinary Insitute of America class, interned at the Inn at Little Washington and spent five years at Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek, CO, before hanging her shingle. After getting the Vail restaurant off the ground, the Pittsburgh native and her husband, Rick Colomitz, branched out and created Rick and Kelly's American Bistro, a neighborhood gathering spot — and a good place to brandish those Steelers Terrible Towels.
So…got yer beer here.
It's Iron City, the official beer of the Steelers. In Colorado it's only available in Denver, so we put our order in and make the trip once a year to pick up 20 cases. We are the official hosts of the Vail Valley Steelers Fan Club.
Vail is a long way from Pittsburgh. Did you come to Colorado for the skiing and decide to stay?
I'm probably the only person who moved here not to ski. I actually moved here to work at Splendido. And my family has split their time between here and Pittsburgh for years.
A fridge full of beer, and you're developing a new bourbon. Do we see a theme emerging?
It's my favorite drink, and we wanted to make our own signature bourbon. I think it will be pretty close to the only organic bourbon on the market. We're looking at selling it through our restaurants and local boutique liquor stores.
Some snacks to go with that?
We started selling food at a booth at the local farmer's market, figuring it would be a good way to get exposure for the restaurant. So we've sold kettle chips with different dips, like spicy black bean, herbed hummus, salsas. Then people started asking for our cocktail mixes. Now we're trying to figure out how to sell these products through the restaurants, maybe in holiday gift baskets that we can ship.
What's it like to work with your spouse?
For me it's awesome, because I would never see him if we didn't work together. But we have to be careful not to talk about work when we're at home or out on a date.
Tell us about your projects with the local school.
The latest pilot program is creating an edible schoolyard. The kids will learn through growing, harvesting, cooking--they might even have a booth at a farmer's market.
Do you get any time to enjoy the great outdoors?
I just got a new mountain bike, so I'll be doing that more. We live near Vail in Eagle, which is a mountain biking mecca--there are trails everywhere.
Are the Steelers going all the way this year?
Definitely. The Vegas odds that they will be in the Super Bowl are 5 to 1. For most teams it's more like 30 to 1.