Chef of the Year
Executive chef, Fruition
Chef Alex Seidel cradles a freshly cured duck prosciutto in his arms before hanging it next to the country ham, Spanish lomo, and pork prosciutto he's already cured in Fruition's diminutive kitchen. The act underscores Seidel's deliberateness as a chef and his commitment to doing things right: He waits months for his charcuterie to cure just right, grows his own vegetable garden, and pursues hard-to-find ingredients such as hearts of palm (the three-foot-long stalks are shipped from Hawaii) and diver scallops from Maine, simply because they're the best.
Thanks to Seidel's passion and dedication, his sophisticated American comfort food is capturing national attention. But even as the accolades from Bon Appetít and Gourmet pile up, his focus remains local. "I just want to bring Denver diners flavors they understand, with prices they can afford, in a place that feels like home," he says.
Inside the cozy Sixth Avenue spot, Seidel makes diners feel at home with approachable dishes (pasta carbonara, oysters Rockefeller, caramelized banana pudding) and midrange prices. That said, his cuisine is finely tuned and often executed with a twist. To wit, Seidel's signature Maple Leaf Farms duck breast, which juxtaposes medium-rare medallions and Seidel's house-cured duck prosciutto. Paired with creamy risotto, lightly grilled arugula, and sweet-sour red onion marmalade, this masterpiece balances color, texture, temperature, and flavor.
Seidel credits many mentors for his success, but none was more important than Frank Bonanno, chef-owner of Mizuna, where Seidel worked as executive chef for four and a half years. "Frank gave me the freedom to be the chef I am today," Seidel says. "We had free rein to experiment at Mizuna, and I learned that in Denver it's important to create food that's not too extreme, not too much out of the box. Here at Fruition, we want to serve diners the kind of food that brings back memories and keeps them coming back for more."
In just one year's time, Fruition and Seidel have succeeded, as evidenced by the packed tables and hard-to-come-by reservations. Indeed, as diners return time and again for Seidel's accessible dishes, we're left to ask, just what did we do before Fruition? Carol W. Maybach