Inside the Taste of Pikes Peak

    Greg Howard, president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, previews the Springs’ biggest food and beverage event. Start saving up an appetite now.

    More than 80 restaurants and vendors will gather at The Broadmoor World Arena on April 28th to host the largest food and beverage event in Southern Colorado: the 24th Annual Pikes Peak Food, Wine and Beer Expo, aka the Taste of Pikes Peak, organized by the Colorado Restaurant Association and sponsored by Springs magazine, among others. “This is the food event of Colorado Springs,” says Greg Howard, president of the association’s Pikes Peak Chapter. “It’s the best opportunity to experience what our community has to offer.”

    New this year is a VIP Experience as an opportunity for guests to meet with chefs and bartenders an hour before the doors open. “This is the first year with a VIP session … for a more exclusive time with chefs, brewers and distillers,” Howard says. “This is for those who want a conversation before 1,200 people pour into the World Area.”

    But all 1,200 attendees will get to sample creations by those chefs, brewers and distillers—and experience the Chef’s Competition and Craft Cocktail Competition, featuring local chefs and bartenders in Southern Colorado. “This is also our first year partnering with the Colorado Springs Bartender’s Guild, who only formed last year,” Howard adds. “They’re running the cocktail competition for us. I’m excited. … They’re going to take it to the next level.”

    bartender pours at taste of pikes peak
    A competitor in the 2018 Pikes Peak Food, Wine and Beer Expo Cocktail Competition pours a drink. Photo courtesy of Greg Howard.

    The new name is appropriate, though Howard says the shorter, snappier Taste of Pikes Peak is phasing in. “It’s a soft introduction—the event is still called the Pikes Peak Food, Wine and Beer Expo,” he says. “Next year, though—for our 25th anniversary celebration—it will officially be Taste of Pikes Peak.”

    Howard’s excitement and pride about the event are obvious. He has watched it evolve, having been in the industry for 25 years, including eight years as general manager of Phantom Canyon in the late ’90s and early aughts. “Many of our local restaurant leaders came out of Phantom,” he says. “It was a great stopping ground for learning … They empowered us for entrepreneurship.”

    Howard—with wife, Ari—owned and operated McCabe’s Tavern until she re-envisioned the pub into the inspired Streetcar 520. As a member of the Colorado Restaurant Association for 12 years, he is serving his second term as our region’s president. “I love the work we do,” Howard says. “I just made a trip to D.C. to meet with senators … [concerning] current issues and approaching hurdles. It’s important; the restaurant business is the second largest employer in Colorado, behind government.”

    Now back from Washington, his sights are set on this year’s Expo. “It started 24 years ago as a trade show for restaurateurs,” Howard explains. “Over time, it evolved into a food & beverage show for the general public.”

    Each year, the Expo generously raises money for ProStart, an educational program that trains high school students who aspire to a career in the culinary arts. In addition, ProStart selects a student to compete in the Chef’s Competition against the pros. “It’s really special—these chefs are idols to the kids. It’s a great demonstration of the camaraderie within our culture.”

    And an all-you-can-eat treat for food and beverage aficionados in the Springs and Southern Colorado.

    Taste of Pikes Peak

    April 28, 2019

    The Broadmoor World Arena

    12 – 3:30 p.m., VIP session at 11 a.m.