Double Diamond Cooking
September 14, 2021
As a snowboarder, Liana Aghajanian launches 40-foot kickers. As Granby Ranch’s Executive Chef, she’s elevating food services to expert class too.
Want to get a photo of Granby Ranch Executive Chef Liana Aghajanian? She’ll lead you to the pit smoker on the patio. That’s because it’s not just another pit smoker. It’s a metaphor.
When Aghajanian took over the food and beverage offerings last fall, she knew she needed to improve the cuisine. But she wanted the menu to stand apart from the standardized fare at most ski areas. Aghajanian’s decade in Grand County—she spent seven years cooking under James Beard chef Evan Treadwell at Devil’s Thumb Ranch—guided her. “I had an instant vision of the pit smoker right on the patio,” says Aghajanian. “We’re not Vail or one of the I-70 resorts. We’re rural. And that remoteness is part of our identity here. Grand County’s history in agriculture predates skiing. We still have cattle country and small farms. I wanted to showcase quality smoked meats and locally sourced produce.”
Now with a curated crew behind her, Aghajanian is delivering on that vision. But outside of urban areas, building a staff of culinary professionals can be challenging. Granby Ranch’s sous-chef uprooted his family from the south to take the role. Now three out of his four kids are also working under Aghajanian. “I try to grow with the people around me,” she says. “I turn dishwashers into prep cooks, and line cooks into chefs. That’s the best way to ensure quality—when everyone knows every aspect of what we do.”
This past June, Aghajanian was awarded the Double Diamond award as the food and beverage professional of the year by Colorado Ski Country USA. The trophy was an honor, but Aghajanian is keener on turning the food service at Granby Ranch into a destination unto itself. It’s happening: A customer recently told management that he drove up from Fort Collins—for the burger. That’s a little weird, but it’s a fine burger. “I think Granby Ranch is humble with our skiing and mountain biking offerings,” says Aghajanian, “but I want people to overlook the lack of vertical and say, ‘the food was amazing, and I want to go back because of that.’ I also love the family focus of Granby Ranch. The kids’ menu is put together with just as much passion as the adult menu. The business is built around kids.”
This story appears in Granby Ranch’s fall mini-magazine edition. For more information or to get a print copy, please email eloveland (@) granbyranch.com.