How Chef Ryan Hardy Left His Mark on the Roaring Fork Valley

After decamping to Manhattan in 2013, Hardy returns in December to kick-off The Little Nell’s 2nd Annual Guest Chef Dinner Series. An excerpt from Aspen Sojourner, by Laurel Miller.

Food-loving locals and devotees of The Little Nell still look back fondly on former executive chef Ryan Hardy’s tenure. The chef, who helmed Montagna (now Element 47) from 2005 to 2013, put the restaurant—and local farmers and ranchers—on the national radar, thanks to his rustic, hyper-seasonal Italian cuisine and house-made cheese and charcuterie.

Hardy grew up tending livestock and gardening on his great-aunt’s tobacco farm near Lexington, Kentucky; these formative experiences later galvanized him to partner with Michael and Adde Waters to purchase an 1886 homestead in Crawford, Colorado. The resulting Rendezvous Farm supplied much of the produce, pasture-raised heritage chickens and pigs, and grass-fed lamb for the Nell. Meanwhile, surplus fruit and vegetables were preserved, pickled, or turned into liqueurs for use on winter menus.

Hardy decamped to Manhattan in 2013 to open his first restaurant, Charlie Bird, and is currently gearing up to open Pasquale Jones in NoLita with business partner Robert Bohr. During his time at The Nell, he inspired a new generation of cooks and chefs, many of whom continue to carry on his commitment to supporting local family farms. Visit Aspen Sojourner for the full story and a look at four leaders in the Roaring Fork Valley’s sustainable food movement and how their time working with Hardy inspired them.

Catch Hardy back in Aspen as he kicks off The Little Nell’s Guest Chef Dinner Series for the season on Friday, December 16 (6-10 p.m.) with an urban Italian feast. For the sophomore year of this dining program at element 47, four talented chefs will take over the kitchen for one night only. Each monthly event (through March, 2017) offers an intimate dining experience for guests and an opportunity for The Nell’s culinary team to work under chefs from around the world. $95 per guest with a $65 wine pairing option add-on for five courses, event details are online.