As our appetites and palates opened up to new restaurant adventures and discoveries in 2002, somewhere along the eating trail, I realized that Denver had become, for the first time, a bona fide chef-driven town.
“Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our cooks,” wrote the 20th-century philosopher, linguist, and author Lin Yutang. He was right. Food nourishes our soul. How, what, and where we eat defines us as much as anything else. So for this year’s Dining in Denver, I tip my hat to an inspiring new generation of Denver chefs. These young, energetic, talented, and seriously committed chefs are striving to make Denver the best little restaurant city in the country.
As our appetites and palates opened up to new restaurant adventures and discoveries in 2002, somewhere along the eating trail, I realized that Denver had become, for the first time, a bona fide chef-driven town. What a turnaround from the chain-obsessed city of a year ago. In fact, something resembling New York City’s dining scene transpired over the past year. Denver restaurant goers began saying, “we’re trying Sean Kelly’s new place,” or “Have you been to Frank’s restaurant?” or simply, “Jennifer’s cooking is terrific.” It was no longer just about Clair de Lune, Mizuna, or Panzano. Our dining out preferences were every bit as concerned with the name of the chef running the kitchen.
Want proof? Look no further than Sean Yontz. Our pick for Denver’s top chef worked virtually anonymously under Kevin Taylor for nearly 10 years before opening Tamayo, a New York-based restaurant in Denver. Tamayo’s skeptics insisted it couldn’t survive with expensive, modern Mexican cuisine. And yet, it has. Now Yontz is moving on to Vega, a new spot set to open mid-October in the old Sacre Bleu space. Diners are sure to follow Yontz who, along with former Tamayo GM Marco Colantonio, will continue inspiring Denver’s taste for something different.