Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Sun Valley Culinary Institute Trots Out Champagne and Cheesecake Ahead of Opening
Chris Koetke, dean of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute, celebrates the procurement of a new home for the Sun Valley Culinary Institute with Catherine Larsen of Grieve Family Winery during the Sun Valley Center for the Arts Wine Auction.
Tuesday, August 6, 2019


The wine was flowing freely at the Sun Valley Wine Auction, but Chris Koetke had special reason to pop the cork.

The Sun Valley Culinary Institute had just inked a deal establishing the former Cornerstone Bar and Grill in Ketchum for its culinary school and event venue.

“It’s no longer an idea. It’s a reality,” said Koetke, who will serve as dean of the new institute.

Chris Koetke held his first cooking class as dean of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute this summer, teaching aspiring young chefs how to make various forms of pasta.

Already, the building at 211 N. Main St. is a beehive of activity as workers tear out dividers, shorten the bar and do other things to get it ready. And with good reason.

The 2,780-square foot building, which features bricks made in the late 1800s at the Ketchum Kiln, will host its first cooking demo during the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in early October.

And it plans to welcome the public in that weekend as it takes part in the Trailing’s popular Lamb Bites. The Institute also plans to launch its food enthusiast programs this fall and make the space available for weddings, parties and other events.

It will start up its culinary school in the fall of 2020.

Workers are tearing out dividers and revamping the old bar.

The Sun Valley Culinary Institute will throw a Champagne & Cheesecake Tasting for anyone who wishes to learn more following the Sun Valley Music Festival’s performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony on Wednesday, Aug. 7. The event will be held at the Harriman Cottage adjacent to the Pavilion and will feature cheesecake donated by The Cheesecake Factory of California.

The institute team will be on hand to talk about the project.

The Cornerstone Bar location has great visibility and ambiance, said Harry Griffith, whose Sun Valley Economic Development (SVED) has been researching the economic feasibility of a culinary institute in Sun Valley for a decade.

The 1884 building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was known as the Golden Rule when it opened as a grocery and general merchandise store.

The old kitchen will be gutted and expanded.

“It’s iconic. It’s cool. It’s unique. It’s part of the history of the town. This was a grocery store back in the late 1800s. it’s been a bookstore, and it’s been a restaurant, so we’re taking it back to its roots. It’ll have people walking by looking in the window, and it has a parking lot in back,” said Griffith.

Workers are creating a more open, relaxed space in front. The ceiling will be painted lighter and lighting will be added. And the canopies over the front exterior will be removed to return the building to its original 1887 look.

The new granite bar will be able to accommodate demos for 15 to 25 people, wine sipping included.  Cameras mounted in the ceiling will project cooking action onto screens behind the bar.  

The front space itself will be able to accommodate cocktail parties for a hundred and sit-down dinners for 75. Those who rent it out will be able to use their preferred caterers.

Harry Griffith talks about the baking center that will soon operate in the basement of the former Cornerstone Bar and Grill.

Shelves in the back of the facility will be reinstalled in front to create a library of cookbooks.

The kitchen will be expanded, with 6-foot glass isolating partygoers from the noise and smells. Stoves and other equipment currently in the kitchen are being donated to The Hunger Coalition, which is building a kitchen in Bellevue. New equipment will take the older equipment’s place.

The downstairs will be remodeled into a baking center.  And the mezzanine room will be turned into a social lounge that can be rented for events.

“We’ve been kicking around ways to design it…maybe like an 1880s social club,” Griffith said.

Outside, the culinary institute is working with Ketchum Urban Renewal to improve the curb and lightning and renovate the sign painted on the exterior brick in the late 1800s.

The culinary team had eyeballed the Cornerstone, which closed in 2017, earlier but shelved it when it looked like the former Globus Restaurant might fit the bill. When the Globus property didn’t pan out, the team considered jumping into a mixed-use project on First Avenue and Fourth Street proposed by Jack Bariteau.

But the project wasn’t going through Planning and Zoning fast enough, Griffith said.

“We had hoped to get it in the ground this year, but it wasn’t going to be,” said Griffith. “So, we came back here and kicked the tires. It was available immediately, and we got a fair deal. It would have been nice to have had a brand new lovely state-of-the art facility, but it wouldn’t have had the character that this does.”

The culinary institute has scaled its culinary class back to 12 students given the smaller space. They will take part in a year-long program that will include two months learning basic chef skills followed by time cooking alongside local chefs during Sun Valley’s busy winter months.

Spring slack will find the aspiring chefs back in school learning baking and other skills before returning to cook in the real world as summer vacationers pour into Sun Valley.

Half of the $1 million target for improvements, new equipment and operating capital has been raised. To raise the rest, the institute is launching a Founder’s Table Campaign for donors who make donations of $5,000 or more. Their contributions will be recognized at the front of the facility.

The institute will also sell bricks for $1,000, with those donors recognized on wall plaques near the kitchen.

“It’s a grassroots way for people to help,” said Griffith. “The bottom line: This is real, and it’s happening.”

Want to know more? Visit www.sunvalleyculinary.org.


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