Robert McCormick's Dual Passion
by linda hayes
McCormick enjoys not knowing what’s around the next corner, and his bike’s panniers are often packed with a Nikon D90 and a tripod to record his adventures
Robert McCormick has a taste for adventure. “I enjoy not knowing what’s around the corner,” he says with a wide grin. “And I like to go fast.” That provocative statement plays out in two of McCormick’s primary passions: cooking in the high-energy kitchens at The Little Nell’s restaurants, Montagna and Ajax Tavern, where he is executive chef, and riding his BMW R 1200 GS dual-sport motorcycle.
“With cooking, you never know what you’re going to get,” he says. “You can work on different parts of a dish, but by the time it materializes you can end up with something completely different. With riding, you might set a route, then meet up with someone and take a different path.”
While McCormick’s culinary path has included stops at big-city restaurants such as Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn Las Vegas and Citronelle in Washington, DC, his riding days began in rural Pennsylvania, on dirt bikes and four-wheelers. His first urban bike was a Ducati Monster—“a naked, wind-in-your-face kind of bike,” he says—which he bought in 2005 after a year-long culinary escapade in Italy.
The BMW has been his ride for the past few years. In dry months, he commutes to the Nell on his bike every day from his home in town, and often tools around the back roads of Old Snowmass, up past Ruedi Reservoir to Ivanhoe Lake, or over Independence Pass to Leadville. “There’s great riding out here,” he says. “You can clear your head and focus. Like with skiing, you’re totally zoned in.”
Still, long-distance journeys bring a special joy. McCormick has traveled solo to such places as the Gulf Coast; Texas Hill Country; New Mexico; Big Bend National Park; Maui, Hawaii; and all over Colorado, including San Juan, Minturn, Ouray, and Silverton.
“Being alone, you can take the road less traveled and be on your own schedule,” he says. “I basically ate my way across the South, and discovered great little food scenes in Taos and Santa Fe. I got recommendations from people about places I never would have known about.”
This off-season, McCormick is planning a “Wild West” tour—Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Moab—with a couple of chefs (part of a local subculture of adventure riders, he says), camping and cooking along the way. And when he returns from the freedom of the open road to the fast pace of Montagna’s kitchen and a demanding summertime crowd? “It’s another adventure,” he says. “I’ll be fully geared, prepped, and ready to go.”
photography by karl wolfgang