Meat & Cheese and Farm Shop’s owner Wendy Mitchell had planned to close the shop and retire at the end of the summer.
Something of a collective panic broke out at the news in May among patrons who regularly flock to the eatery.
A sampling of comments around town overheard then: “Where are we going to eat now? What will I do without my favorite Vietnamese noodle salad? Will we ever know what’s in the dipping sauce that comes with the roast chicken? How can she do this to us?”
At first, she did not intend to sell the intellectual property of Meat & Cheese, thinking that it might be better for something new to come into the existing space — but soon realized she was wrong in that assumption.
She and Marcus clearly got the message because on Wednesday it was announced that Aspen-based hospitality group Infinite Hospitality, in partnership with Aspen Birchwood, will be taking over the restaurant and shop in the fall and continue the legacy of Meat & Cheese.
“They were not necessarily the highest bidder in this whole process, but this is the group that I felt was the best fit for our employees and who would carry on as-is as opposed to a big corporation coming in and changing everything,” she said. “They’re keeping any staff that wants to stay, and it just sounds like they’re going to make the transition as seamless as possible.”
Sean Robison, COO of Infinite Hospitality, confirmed that the intention of the group was to keep the restaurant and Mitchell’s vision of Meat & Cheese intact, noting his own love for the restaurant.
“First off, we all are huge fans of Meat & Cheese. Everyone in our group literally eats there all the time. When I first heard the news, I texted Wendy directly and was like, ‘Can I just get the recipe for the Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Salad, please?’ Like if nothing else happens, just please give me that,” he said with a laugh. “So we’re going into it with the mindset that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, much like we did with Hooch.”
He added that they are hoping the entire team will stay on, noting that the staff is “like a family,” and that any changes that are made will be staff driven.
“She (Mitchell) has an amazing team; they are incredible,” he said. “I’ve been in restaurants for a long time, and just being able to experience their energy, it’s pretty special. So if the staff want to propose some changes, they’re in it, right? They’re the people we have to listen to. We wouldn’t take the project on if we thought we didn’t have the systems in place to do this and support Wendy’s vision and the staff and the legacy.”
He also wanted to emphasize that no one need worry, the group plans to have Meat & Cheese around for “decades,” and that the Vietnamese noodle salad and the roast chicken board “aren’t going anywhere.”
The plan is for Mitchell to stay on until Sept. 30, at which point the restaurant will close for two weeks for the new owners to transition in. If all goes well, the team aims to re-open on Oct. 17 — exactly nine years to the day when Meat & Cheese initially opened.
“You never know what’s going to happen in this world,” Robison said. “But symbolically, if we can re-open on Oct. 17, that feels really good.”
Mitchell said she is happy to pass the baton to a group she is familiar with and trusts, so she can focus on other things.
She said that she’s recently been elected to the Aspen Film Board and will spend time helping them raise money for the renovation of the Isis Theatre.
“I feel like having a place that’s really great for the community to have events and interesting movies and film fests is so important to support,” she said.
When asked what else she planned to do with her spare time, she jokingly said she wanted to “sit on the couch and watch Netflix.” But she is looking forward to enjoying some of her newfound freedom from the restaurant industry.
“My kids are in college now, and it would be really nice to go travel and see them,” she said. “I’ve been working since I was 14 years old and working hard in really physically-demanding jobs. So I’m just excited to not work for a little bit and see how that feels.”
Sarah Girgis I The Aspen Times I July 20, 2023