IKEA does right thing


IKEA in Centennial donated nearly $60,000 of products in comfort kits for families forced out of their homes during Colorado’s Black Forest Fire in June. In all, 800 kits were created; 500 for adults and 300 for children.

“There really wasn’t a question of if we’d do something to help our neighbors, it was a question of what we’d do,” said local marketing, PR, and community outreach manager Annie Boeckman.

IKEA Centennial co-workers brainstormed product ideas to include in the kits. Each bag contained basic necessities focusing on eating, sleeping, and hygiene.

“The products chosen for the bags were a team effort,” Boeckman said. “Our co-workers put themselves in the mindset of an evacuee and thought about what they’d need if they had to up and leave at a moment’s notice.”

Each IKEA bag contained a pillow, blanket, towel, water bottle and utensils for eating and writing. The child kits also contained markers, paper and a soft toy to keep them entertained during a stressful situation.

IKEA Centennial realized firsthand results of their efforts in an email from an IKEA visitor on July 2: “I want to thank you for the kind packages you sent to the Red Cross to help those in the Black Forest Fire! My sister lost everything, but had toys for her grandkids to play with because of your kindness.”

It took just five days to pull more than 10,000 products, set up an assembly line on the store’s receiving dock and have co-workers assemble the bags. Many IKEA employees came in early or stayed late knowing time was of the essence for the evacuees.

The New Jersey IKEA transport team, in charge of setting up trucks for product delivery to and from distribution centers, quickly contracted a 53-foot trailer to transport the bags to Colorado Springs. The kits were delivered to the American Red Cross Disaster Assistance Center on June 21 and distributed by Red Cross volunteers the following week.

Panzano chef competes

Elise Wiggins, executive chef of Panzano in Denver, will represent Colorado at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans on Aug. 3. One of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the United States, The Great American Seafood Cook Off emphasizes the importance of cooking with domestic and sustainable seafood.

In New Orleans, Wiggins will compete against more than a dozen top seafood chefs from across the country for the title of “King” or “Queen” of American Seafood. The chefs will prepare dishes that showcase sustainable fish. Garrett Wiggins, Elise’s younger brother, will act as her sous chef at the event. Interestingly, Wiggins grew up in West Monroe, La., and moved to Colorado to pursue her cooking career.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to return to Louisiana and represent Colorado at the Cook-Off in New Orleans,” said Wiggins, whose restaurant, Panzano, has a Four Diamond rating from AAA. “I look forward to meeting chefs from other states as we help spread the word about the

importance of sustainability.”

Wiggins didn’t disclose her recipe for the competition, but did reveal its name: Colorado Kokanee Salmon Celebration.

The fish comes from Blue Mesa Reservoir in Colorado. Wiggins is a graduate of the Art Institute of Colorado and she was named Colorado Chef of the Year in 2005.

“I am pleased that Chef Elise is bringing a taste of Colorado to the Tenth Annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off,” said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, which produces the cook-off.

“Each year we bring a new and diverse group of America’s most talented chefs to New Orleans, and it is fast becoming apparent that 2013 will be the most exciting year yet.”

Earlier this year, organizers of The Great American Seafood Cook-Off encouraged states to hold a qualifying round or appoint a chef to compete in the event. There are currently 16 chefs registered representing such states as Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, New Mexico and South Carolina.

John Besh won the first The Great American Seafood Cook-Off in 2004 with a dish of pan-roasted Louisiana blackfish with corn, crab and caviar. The 2012 Cook-Off Crown went to Chef Gregory Gourdet of Departure Restaurant in Portland, Ore. Chef Gourdet prepared a dish of slow-cooked Oregon Chinook Salmon featuring butter clams, bacon dashi, porcini, roasted heirloom tomato and crispy sea greens.

The 2013 Great American Seafood Cook Off will take place on Aug. 3 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans during the Louisiana Foodservice Expo.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is the chief sponsor of the event. More information is available at www.GreatAmericanSeafoodCookoff.com.

“I know it seems crazy for a chef from a landlocked state like Colorado to compete in a national seafood competition but I’m getting these great Kokanee salmon from Blue Mesa, caught by fishing guide Robby Richardson from Sport Fish Colorado. I can’t wait to get back to Louisiana and win this thing,” Wiggins added.

Wine time

It’s almost getting old, but Wine Spectator magazine gave Boulder restaurant Flagstaff House its Grand Award for the 30th straight year.

The Grand Award is Wine Spectator’s highest honor, awarded to restaurants that demonstrate passion and commitment to their wine programs.

Wine Spectator also gave a Grand Award to Aspen’s Element 47 based on its wine selections.

All of the wine winners will be announced in the magazine’s August 31 issue, which hits newsstands on July 23.

Twenty-eight Colorado restaurants earned Best of Award of Excellence and 68 were mentioned for Award of Excellence.

For more information, visit www.winespectator.com/restaurants/search.

Way to go, dude!

Former Denver Post reporter Mark Obmascik’s second book, “Halfway to Heaven,” has been chosen by the city of Wheat Ridge for its One City/One Book program.

Here’s Obmascik’s Facebook post on Monday:

“Woo hoo! Honored and grateful to have my second book, Halfway to Heaven, selected by Wheat Ridge, CO for its One City / One Book program. I’ll be giving a series of talks and slide shows about the book (how to climb — or how not to climb — all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains in a summer) in September.”

Obmascik’s first book, “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession,” was a best seller and was turned into a feature film starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson.

For more information, visit www.jefferson.lib.co.us/press-room/press-releases/wheat-ridge-reads-feature-fourteener-memoir.

Baby steps

Ella Quinn Wiard was born at 1:44 p.m., July 16. The second child for Elway’s Cherry Creek chef Tyler Wiard and his wife, Jen (events manager at Elway’s) was 7 pounds, 5 ounces at birth.

“Gall bladder has to be removed in the very near future. Got an epidural, broke my water, baby’s heart rate dropped, got rushed to surgery. We had a C-section,” Jen reports. “Baby is in special room for extra oxygen. I am in recovery. Phew!!”

I adore this couple and am so happy for their addition! Congrats, folks.


Eavesdropping on two women talking about whether to get an iPhone: “I just don’t like the way the iPhone operates.”

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you will get used to it. I hate it! You’ll just get used to hating it.”

Penny Parker’s “Mile High Life” column gives insights into the best events, restaurants, businesses, parties and people throughout the metro area. Parker also writes for Blacktie-Colorado.com. You can subscribe and read her columns (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at www.pennyparker.blacktie-colorado.com. She can be reached at penny@blacktie-llc.com or at 303-619-5209.


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