Dei Maggi Sets Visit

Michael Dei Maggi, whose career has taken him to esteemed culinary destinations like Paris and New York as well as Houston, will serve as guest chef for one night only at the Culinary Adventure Cooking School in Fredericksburg on Friday March 3.

Dei Maggi comes to town representing the legendary Gage Hotel in the Big Bend region of West Texas, where he now serves as executive chef. His five-course Taste of the Gage dinner cooking class, featuring both global influences and authentic West Texas flavors, is $65 per person. Seating is limited to 20 and can be reserved at www.jelly.com/index/classes.

With more than 17 years of kitchen experience, ranging from Ledoyen in Paris to Le Bernadin in New York City to the Fairmont Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Dei Maggi arrives here from his new home, the hotel built by wealthy cattle baron Alfred Gage. Attracting connoisseurs to the tiny town of Marathon since the 1930s, the now-expanded and luxurious property features a destination restaurant, cleverly called 12 Gage, that Dei Maggi calls his own.

Not at all a stranger to Texas taste buds, the chef spent several years in Houston, at esteemed addresses like Bistro Moderne, Bice and Max’s Wine Dive before helming his own place, the Rockwood Room. Other stops on Dei Maggi’s culinary adventure include New London CT, Austin and Napa Valley. At the Gage, he draws inspiration from the bold flavors of West Texas as well as from ingredients almost as dramatic as the scenery outside his kitchen window.

The town of Marathon, given that name when it was founded by a sea captain who said it reminded him of its namesake in Greece, may have just over 200 residents – compared with Alpine at 5,000 and art-crazed Marfa at 1,980 – but it holds its own thanks to the Gage. Its renewal began several decades ago, when Houston oilman J.P. Bryan saw the then-closed hotel during a visit with his family to Big Bend, where they owned ranch.

Bryan impulsively asked to purchase the Gage, which had slipped entirely from public awareness even among locals. No one, for instance, knew or cared that the hotel had been designed by famous El Paso-based architect Henry Trost, until Bryan dug through the trash-piled interiors and found a set of plans from builders he knew Trost often used. A few phone calls to El Paso confirmed the important truth.

Since buying the Gage, Bryan has not only renovated and upgraded the original Trost building, in which Alfred Gage kept his offices and welcomed business associates, but added even more luxurious buildings and creature comforts like a swimming pool and spa, all done in the Southwest style for which the architect was famous. Bryan also decorated every possible space with Western art and artifacts of the caliber that now fills his new museum in Galveston.

Story by John DeMers

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