Category Archives: Chef

‘Top Chef’ Season Features Colorado

Series filmed in Colorado kicks off on December 7.

It’s been 10 seasons since a Colorado chef won top honors on “Top Chef,” the wildly popular Bravo TV chef competition. The last Colorado champ was Hosea Rosenberg, then with Jax Fish House and now partner chef at Blackbelly Restaurant & Butcher and the new Santo, both in Boulder.

Chef Hosea won Season 5, and Season 15 starts on December 7 with two Colorado chefs in the mix. Here’s hoping the hometown advantage helps one of them rise to the peak of chef celebrity.

“Top Chef” Season 15 Cheftestants

  • Fatima Ali. New York
  • Tyler Anderson. Simsbury, CT
  • Carrie Baird. Bar Dough. Denver
  • Adrienne Cheatham, New York
  • Laura Cole, Denali National Park, AK
  • Joseph Flamm. Chicago.
  • Rogelio Garcia. San Francisco
  • Tanya Holland.  Oakland, CA
  • Bruce Kalman. Los Angeles
  • Brother Luck. Four By Brother Luck, Colorado Springs
  • Melissa Perfit.  San Francisco
  • Tu David Phu. Oakland
  • Joe Sasto. Los Angeles
  • Christopher Scott, Brooklyn
  • Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins. San Diego

Coloradans will all look for familiar sights as the program showcases our breathtaking landscapes and the thriving culinary scenes in Denver, Boulder, Telluride and Aspen. The show kicks off with a block party Larimer Square — unfortunately in the 11 to midnight. Hoping I don’t doze off. Fortunately, it is possible to record it and watch when convenient.

Also appearing are local star chefs Troy Guard, Alex Seidel, Hosea Rosenberg, Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, Keegan Gerhard, Jen Jasinski and Frank Bonanno. The program has all sorts of twists and audience-pleasing gimmicks, but for those of us who appreciate Colorado’s burgeoning school scene, it’s all about the chefs.

Santo Brings New Mexican Fare to Boulder

Top Chef alum and restaurateur Hosea Rosenberg’s latest hit.

There is still a temporary sign above the door.

On powder days, I’ve stood at the top of ski run, waiting for the patrol to drop the rope so I could score some turns in fresh snow. For the first time, I felt that familiar anticipation as I waited for a new restaurant’s door to be unlocked. The restaurant is Santo, the newest venture for chef Hosea Rosenberg, who grew up in Taos, became a genuine celeb chef after winning Top Chef, Season 5 and operates the popular East Boulder Blackbelly Market, restaurant and butchery. He has tapped into his northern New Mexico roots for decorative statements but mostly for the food.

The line was building for an anticipated 4 p.m. opening of the new occupant of the space next to Ideal Market. A paper sign on the door indicated that due to “technical difficulties,”  Santo would open at 4:30. When it did, we first customers felt like celebs, greeted by cameras and cell phones. What a hoot!

Eager diners in line at dusk for chef Hosea Rosenberg’s Santo, which brings the distinctive cuisine of northern New Mexico to Colorado’s Front Range.

The Santo space  is both familiar and new. Once Radda Trattoria, then Ella’s from the Zoe Mama team then Scott’s on Alpine — I’ve eaten at them all. The look, the cuisine and the vibe may have changed with each transition, but I’ve always known where to find the restroom without asking.

Santo’s  commodious square bar remains on the west part of the large dining room. A wonderful wooden zia symbol  chandelier floating above the bar was made by a New Mexican carver, as were the santos along the walls. I intended to take a picture, but I was so eager to get seated and order that I didn’t — and by the time we left, the bar area was mobbed — and loud. Framed B&B photographs decorate the dining area, but in truth, the focus is on the food, as  it certainly should be. Here’s what my husband and I ate on Day One (plus wine for me, a beer for him):

Wood Oven Queso is a blend of local cheese melted in the wood oven in a small cast-iron pan. It is topped with red pepper jelly and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The portion looks small but the taste is big. And what’s the New Mexican word for ‘umami”? White and blue corn tortilla chips come on the side.
A trio of wild boar empanadas with cilantro crema, salsa with a kick and a bit of crunchy salad.
The smoky aroma of this thick soup rises from the table as soon as the bowl is set down. Smoked corn, huitlacoche (corn smut (an unappealing name for a specialty) and thin flavor ribbons of Christmas salsas (red and green).
Generous portion of Kale and Quinoa Salad, with slices of apple, jicama, grilled cactus queso fresco, piñon nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Apple and green chile pie backed in a cheddar crust with a generous scoop or vanilla ice cream on top.

Price check: At dinner appetizers, $6-$12; soups and sides $6-$12; entrées $16-$32; chile, side add-ons $2-$5; desserts, $5-$7.

Santo is at 1265 Alpine Avenue, Boulder; 303-442-6100.

Ramen Competition Coming Up

Five Denver chefs compete for a good cause.

Ramen — that cheap student staple that comes in a cellophane package with its own (usually salty) flavor packet– rises to ethereal heights when five gifted Denver chefs who do a lot with contemporary Asian cuisine prepare their versions from scratch. They compete for the title of Ramen Showdown Shogun on Monday, November 13 from 6 to 10 p.m. with guests slurping (or not) and doing the judging.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge hosts the event. Its own chef, Gregory Gourdet competes against Steve Redzikowski (Acorn, Oak on Fourteenth), Lon Symensma (ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro and others), Tommy Lee (Uncle, Hop Alley) and Corey Baker (Sushi Ronin). Guests attending the ramen showdown vote for a winner and watch the live results unfold on a 55-inch screen.

Each guest gets to try five ramen tasting bowls plus  Departure’s bite-sized Koji-Chestnut ice cream with persimmon and miso butterscotch dessert for $30 including tax and tip. There’s also an optional five-course sake pairing for $20.

A portion of the proceeds goes to Project Angel Heart, a fabulous organization that  has delivered 335,000 meals to more than 2,900 Coloradans living with AIDS or other life-threatening illness this year.

Departure Restaurant + Lounge is located at 249 Columbine Street, Denver. FoMoInfo or tickets, call the restaurant at 720-772-5020.

Garret Meyer Joins Sarto’s

Jefferson Park eatery re-establishing  its cicchetti bar.

Garret Meyer

Sarto’s, a metropolitan Italian eatery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, has had a challenge finding its focus. When it opened nearly three years ago, Brian Laird of Barolo Grill was the first chef. Click here for my report. 

There was at least one other top toque before Meyer was appointed as executive chef. He was an interesting choice, having been at Sarto’s veteran in the early days, but his experience is broad. He once cooked at a trout fishing resort near Alamosa and did stints at Old Major, where he worked his way up to junior sous chef before initially joining Sarto’s. He left to help a friend open a fine dining barbecue restaurant in Singapore, returned briefly to Sarto’s before heading north to Alaska to serve as a chef at a boutique fishing lodge where he learned how to cure his own caviar, forage for wild mushrooms and filet a 300-pound halibut. Back in Denver, he returned to Sarto’s to take the helm as executive chef. Hopefully, the third time is the charm.

Meyer has worked  to create a culture where employees feel like they can thrive and grow. Despite his fish diversions, his approach to the menu is quintessentially Italian, using the best seasonal ingredients expertly prepared  simple and elegant dishes that are also approachable and authentic. 

Meyer doesn’t believe great food should just be reserved for special occasions.  He has returned the restaurant’s popular Cicchetti Bar back to its roots, making it less of a chef’s table and more of a place where diners can gather socially for cocktails and cicchetti, Italian small bites that change daily. The Cicchetti Bar is open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Sarto’s is also adding a new calendar of events, including Saturday cooking classes and Sunday Night Screenings, featuring a themed dinner and movie in the restaurant’s private Verona Room.

Sarto’s is at 2900 West 25th Avenue, Jefferson Park, Denver.

Sarto's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pizzeria Locale One of the Best ‘Small Chains’

Restaurant trade site likes Colorado chain.

Pizzeria Locale, a casual spin-off of Boulder’s heralded Frasca Food and Wine, got a shout-out from RestaurantBusiness.com in a roundup of “20 Small Chains Poised to Break Out.” The first Locale next door to the mother ship is a table service spot, but the newer locations follow a fast-casual format with lower prices but still with the high food standards expected at a place that Frasca co-founder. chef Lachlan Mckinnon-Patterson, has set up and oversees. Pizzeria Locale is a joint venture with Colorado-based Chipotle. Here’s what the site wrote about Pizzeria Locale in a piece on small chains with fewer than 20 locations:

“The Denver-based build-your-own pizza concept made headlines three years ago when it got funding from Chipotle. It’s since expanded the brand—which cooks pizzas in two minutes in a 900-degree oven—into the Midwest, with restaurants in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. The chain’s method of differentiating in the saturated pizza segment: a focus on southern Italy, from the ingredients used to the house creations.”

2017 Flatirons Food Film Fest

Sixth annual festival features a smorgasbord of films plus culinary stars.

The Flatirons Food Film Festival continues to attract foodies, film lovers and the intersection of both as it has since 2012.  Taking place in several Boulder venues from September 27 through October 1, it comprises nine film programs, an entire short documentary series focused on Colorado and culinary superstar chef Jeremiah Tower as guest speaker.

He is a hugely influential and controversial figure in American gastronomy. He began his career at Chez Panisse, then  opened Stars, an  iconic San Francisco restaurant, before disappearing from the culinary scene at the height of his success. He  re-emerged decades later at New York City’s struggling Tavern on the Green.  He was already middle-aged and left after less than a year after failing to revive the famous restaurant and have serious disagreements with the owners. Perhaps he will even tell tales that only he can know.  ‘Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent’ is an award-winning film about his life. It will be screened on Sunday, September 30 at 7:15 p.m., followed by an after-party at License No. 1 in the Hotel Boulderado.

Jeremiah Tower in 2015. This culinary legend is the big-name guest speaker at the 2017 Flatirons Food Film Festival

Speaking of hugely influential figures, few outshine the legendary James Beard.  Beth Federici, the filmmaker and director of “James Beard: America’s First Fooodie,” is also a speaker. Other local and visiting speakers include journalist Corie Brown; chef Frank Bonanno of Denver’s Bonanno Concepts; Dr. Allen Lim of Skratch Labs, and Jorge de la Torre, director of culinary education at Denver’s Johnson and Wales University. Food documentaries, short films and food-oriented classics fill the program. There’s also a kids’ farmers’ market walk. And yes, some feature actual food to eat and beverages to drink. Click here for a complete schedule and admission prices.

Kudos for The Kitchen

Boulder Restaurant cited by Food and Wine.

A Food and Wine magazine feature listed “The Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Every State.” For Colorado, The Kitchen in Boulder was honored. Here’s what the magazine thinks:

Colorado: The Kitchen

“Over the past five years in Boulder and Denver, I’ve noticed a big shift towards a vibrant restaurant scene with a palpable verve around sustainability,” said Toni Dash of Boulder Locavore. “Restaurants like Black Cat, Potager, and Fruition have really stepped up to the plate to deliver inspired seasonal cuisine.” Paving the farm-to-table way in Colorado is The Kitchen, which has establishments in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins and applies its strong eco-friendly philosophy—that includes everything from the locally sourced ingredients to wind power to composting—in each location. Founders Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Husk have also created a nonprofit that’s built over 200 Learning Gardens in schools in Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Memphis for 120,000 students to discover the benefits of growing and eating fresh healthy food.