Meet Travis Smith

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Evergreen’s newest restaurant, Bistro Colorado (“BICO”), boasts an award-winning chef of epic proportions. He has medals on display to prove his prowess in the kitchen – more than 30 gold and silver medals from the Culinary Olympics and 11 championships in national and international team competition.

Travis Smith has managed and taught in the field of the culinary arts, but Bistro Colorado is the first restaurant he’s owned, something that was on his bucket list until October of 2013.

Cooking has been in his blood since he was not much more than a toddler. A family photo shows him on a stovetop cooking an egg before he was tall enough to see over the range top and into a pan. From about age 10 he became a regular preparer of meals for himself and his dad in a single-parent household. That led to pursuing food training while a student at Bear Creek High School, continuing on to Warren Tech.

Colorado’s chapter of the American Culinary Federation steered him toward a three-year apprenticeship with Chef Mike Campe, who used to be at Hiwan Golf Club and later with the Radisson in Denver. He was named Apprentice of the Year in 1989 (the same year Campe won Chef of the Year) and entered the military the day after he graduated from the apprenticeship program.

His education reminds one of ordering a la carte from some of the best menus at a gourmet’s progressive dinner, topped off with an Executive MBA from the University of Denver. He’s been named Colorado chef of the Year (2010) and was selected as one of six chefs preparing food at the Governor’s Gala (2013). However, some of his best experience came during his 20-year career in the Army. In 2005 he claimed the title of US Army Chef of the Year (1995) and US National Soup and Sauce Champion (2002) and National Military Chef of the Year (2005).

“The international experience of competing and trying to be good enough to beat the best culinarians on the best culinary teams was a phenomenal experience, “ Travis says in a humble tone. “To be a part of that elite team and go somewhere and represent your country was an honor I will cherish forever. “

In the military, he trained those who worked for specialty areas like Camp David, the White House and generals and trained the instructors responsible for training the 5200 cooks coming into the Army each year.

He’s always following the quest to make the perfect dish.

As Executive Chef for Breckenridge Ski Resort, it became apparent that “sustainability is pretty darned important to somebody,” Travis says. Vail Resorts, owner of four ski resorts in Colorado including Breckenridge and six others across the country, has a sustainability mission in its kitchens so impressive that the company claims it’s in their DNA.

While overseeing foodservice for a luxury condo as well as six restaurants “on the mountain” at Breckenridge, Travis was inspired to fashion his own restaurant after the “field to fork” concept of buying as much as possible from purveyors who specialize in locally grown, organic foods.

Travis started his “BICO” business with a food truck and provided some of the foodservice at the Presidential debate held in Denver in 2012. He’s up to two food trucks now and offers catering as well as the freshest, innovative meals at his sit-down restaurant nestled into a small retail area just south of the Blue Quill Angler in Bergen Park.

“We want a customer’s experience at Bistro Colorado to feel unique and special,” the chef says. “We want it to be memorable from the feel people get when they walk into the room … the music, atmosphere, service, attention to service, setup, tables. We want that to be warm, inviting, comfortable.”

At Bistro Colorado, the chefs craft their own bacon and ham as well as their signature chocolate truffles. “We combine art with science and nature to present food that is always healthy and well prepared and served at the peak of freshness.”