Granby Ranch chef wins industry award
Liana Aghajanian began her first executive chef role a month before winter opening at Granby Ranch.
Not only was she jumping right into a kitchen at a ski resort under new ownership, she was doing it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I gave her a huge challenge,” General Manger Jace Wirth said. “It was, ‘Open up a couple of restaurants as fast as possible.’”
For her work, Colorado Ski Country USA awarded Aghajanian the Double Diamond Award for Food and Beverage Professional of the Year.
Double Diamond Award recipients range from industry veterans to up-and-coming professionals from Colorado’s mountain resorts. Other ski resorts that received the award this year include Arapahoe Basin, Steamboat Resort, Copper Mountain and Eldora Ski Resort.
The Granby Ranch chef said she was elated to receive the award.
“It’s my first true, professional accolade,” Aghajanian said. “It couldn’t have come from a better organization.”
Aghajanian has spent a total of 10 years living in Grand County and has 15 years of experience in the food and beverage industry in various roles, including six years at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. She also has a deep passion for skiing and winter sports, with multiple pairs of skis sitting at her office at Granby Ranch.
Aghajanian said she wanted to change the “status quo” of ski industry food, which she feels can be pretty standard across resorts.
“You can get the same kind of generic, commodity product at any of these resorts,” Aghajanian said. “That doesn’t feel like there’s any passion behind it. That is what I wanted to change.”
Along with launching two successful restaurants including Bluebird Bistro, Aghajanian helped bring a pit smoker to the property to highlight the agriculture in the surrounding area that makes Granby Ranch unique. She tries to buy local as much as possible.
However, what she is most proud of over the past season is assembling a strong kitchen team and seeing them grow through the struggles of the last year.
“I could never do it alone,” Aghajanian said. “It’s always about putting my staff first. There’s no success without the team.”
The chef said she sees herself as a teacher to her staff, and while there was a huge learning curve with the pandemic, she felt her team navigated the challenges expertly.
Though Granby Ranch had to reimagine the customer experience during the pandemic, Aghajanian said she was careful to never sacrifice quality to make it work.
“The industry is fortunate to have people like her in its ranks — professionals that are committed to providing excellent guest service, no matter the circumstances,” Colorado Ski Country USA President and CEO Melanie Mills said.
Aghajanian is certain that being a chef at a ski resort is what she’s meant to do. It combines two of the things she’s most passionate about and brings out her best.
“I’m not the next Michelin-starred chef; I’m not reinventing the wheel,” Aghajanian said. “One of my strengths is somehow I figured out how to lead people through the gates of hell, and through really difficult times, and we find our way to success.”
Aghajanian is already looking forward to next season at Granby Ranch and envisioning the potential of the coming years.
“What we accomplished this season was what we could accomplish presented with the challenges we faced,” she said. “Now as those restrictions are lifted, the sky’s the limit. It’s a small, humble resort, but I confidently believe there is huge potential.”
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