Steamboat Springs She cooked all day at work, and when she got home, she was ready to get cooking again.
Angie Swinger, with help from her daughter-in-law, rushed to the grocery store to buy chicken, olive oil and tarragon for a dish that Yampa Valley Medical Center Executive Chef Jacques Wilson taught her to cook.
"I was so excited, I had never tasted tarragon before," Swinger said.
Excitement is something Wilson serves everyday at the medical center cafeteria.
"Every day working with Jacques is an adventure," said Scott King, a chef at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort, where Wilson used to work.
Both Swinger, a cook at the medical center, and King have worked with Wilson and described him with words like positive, patient, professional and dedicated.
These qualities, along with his involvement in several culinary organizations, have earned Wilson the title Chef of the Year for the Western Region by the American Culinary Federation. There are only four regions in the country, so Wilson is one of four chefs in the United States to receive the honor.
"I didn't expect it," Wilson said. "It was a complete surprise. It's definitely an honor because my peers selected me."
He was nominated for the regional title after winning Chef of the Year for the Colorado Chapter. He was one of five nominees.
Next, he will compete against the other three regional winners for the national title in a contest to take place July 25-29 in Washington, D.C.
The chefs will have to prepare a four-course meal for six to eight people without knowing in advance what ingredients they will be supplied.
Wilson hopes he will get lucky and be asked to prepare an Italian dish, which is his favorite.
"I like Italian best overall, because it's so diverse, unlike American cuisine," Wilson said. "Then again, American cuisine is good, too. I'll eat a good pot roast any day."
But it isn't only Wilson's cooking that won him this award. He has won almost 20 other distinguished culinary awards, and is currently president of the ACF Culinarians of Colorado, a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and Culinary Adjunct Instructor at Colorado Mountain College.
In addition to teaching at the college in Steamboat, Wilson shares his knowledge and love of cooking with all those he works with.
"He makes such a positive difference in the kitchen," Swinger said. "Working in a kitchen can be stressful, trying to have everything prepared by a certain time. But, Jacques is very patient and takes time to teach you how to do it right. He is wonderful to work for."
"He's so committed to his professionalism and the development of his employees," King said. "He's the real deal."
And of course, Wilson also cooks at home "99 percent of the time," for his wife, Cheryl, and daughter, Ashley.