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Springs chef takes the reins at Ted Turner's Ranch

Culinary crumbs and gastronomic gossip


James Africano, who in July would have celebrated eight years as executive chef at The Warehouse (25 W. Cimarron St.), departed in March for northern New Mexico Vermejo Park Ranch, 40 miles west of Raton. Ted Turner owns the 588,000-acre ranch that Oahu could fit inside. Twice, with leftover space. Alongside roaming elk, deer, antelope, bison and few bear and mountain lion, Africano, as executive chef, now oversees 300 employee and guest meals a day.

"It was a lucky draw," says Africano, whose his wife worked there for a summer 12 years ago. Africano says his new post is actually a little easier than his former, where he'd sometimes do 400 plates inside 12 hours during busy season. He now cooks with nearly four times as many staff.

In terms of meeting Mr. CNN himself: "He was just here [in late April]," says Africano. "He's pretty easygoing. He's just as willing to eat off the employee line ... he likes fried chicken and cole slaw as much as foie gras and truffles."

Vermejo Park is open to the public by reservation. But if you're itchin' to see James before your vacation, he'll return for events such as the Club Nine Fiddles, Viddles and Vino event at Rock Ledge Ranch in August.

The taxman cometh

Sad news for sweet-tooths: Michelle's Chocolatiers, Indy 2006 Gold winner for Best Restaurant for Dessert, has closed its 122 N. Tejon St. location. Due to missed tax payments, the IRS seized the establishment Sunday night. The downtown staple had been in continuous operation since the 1950s.

Sweet Victorian

On Saturday, the Old Colorado City History Center (1 S. 24th St.) will present its sixth annual Victorian Tea at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Garden of the Gods Gourmet will cater the program on Victorian life, fashions and homes. Tickets cost $19 and are available only in advance at the center or by phone at 636-1225.

Piece of Piemonte

Paravicini's plans monthly food and wine dinners at its newest location, 75 S. Hwy 105, Palmer Lake. Each will highlight a region of Italy. At 6:30 p.m. on May 17, "A Culinary Tour of Piemonte" will start things off. The cost is $50 per person, including tax and gratuity. Call 481-2222 for more.

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