By Christine Benedetti | December 15, 2016 | Food & Drink
With a proprietary blend of hustle and bustle, Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce steer town's ever-competitive restaurant scene.
While CP’s restaurant concepts are first informed by their spaces, it’s the fresh, sumptuous fare—such as a braised rabbit poutine with cheese curds, house-cut fries, and dijon mustard gravy, at The Monarch—that helps the group’s properties stand out in a crowded downtown dining scene.
In a literal sense, Craig and Samantha Cordts-Pearce have just about cornered the restaurant market in Aspen: At least one of their establishments can be found on just about every block downtown. Since entering the scene with the Mediterranean Wild Fig in 2003, the couple has added two high-end steakhouses, Steakhouse No. 316 and The Monarch, and CP Burger, a diner-style joint with a classic feel. That quartet makes CP Restaurant Group the largest single-owner group in Aspen (and largest overall behind Aspen Skiing Company). Here, Samantha Cordts-Pearce talks about self-focus, honoring space, and the power of hustle.
How do you find inspiration for four dining spots while giving each one its own identity?
The actual space speaks to the cuisine and concept that we’ll do. Like when we were reconceptualizing Brexi into The Monarch, we wanted to give it a new kick, what with that side of town being rejuvenated. We tried to think what would be a good concept other than a French restaurant. If you look at the space, it wouldn’t make a very good Chinese restaurant; it wouldn’t make a good rib house. We realized, though, that it would make a beautiful, high-end steakhouse.
You have the largest share of restaurants in town with a single owner. Do you see your influence on others in Aspen?
We don’t really pay attention to what other people do. We just do what we do. I feel like we help to keep the bar high in town, whether we influence other people or not.
Describe Aspen’s dining scene in three words.
Competitive, somewhat predictable, and well-seasoned.
What’s the most exciting thing on your menus this winter?
We have a lot of menus! The Monarch is offering a whole Dover sole. We have amazing caviar service and a tableside Caesar. Wild Fig has the best fresh pasta program in town, with house-made pastas. And CP Burger is CP Burger.
You and Craig both started as servers and bartenders.
There’s a handful of people who have worked their way up in this town—it’s a hard town to make it in. To be able to move here as kids and then make it and raise kids and be successful, it’s a harder feat than a lot of people think when trying. It’s great to have been able to do that, and hang without having the bankroll behind us. The Wild Fig, 315 E. Hyman Ave., 970-925-5160; Steakhouse No. 316, 316 E. Hopkins Ave., 970-920-1893; The Monarch, 411 S. Monarch St., 970-925-2838; CP Burger, 433 E. Durant Ave., 970-925-3056
Photography by Ross Daniels