"Ask A Chef" is part of an on-going series in which 5280 poses a single question to a local culinary luminary.
For this installment, we chose Ryan Leinonen, the chef-owner of Trillium  in the Ballpark neighborhood. Leinonen, who opened the bistro at the end of 2011, serves an American menu with Scandinavian undertones (think cold-water fish, horseradish, dill, lingonberries). Since opening, Trillium has landed on our Best New Restaurants  and 25 Best Restaurants  lists.
5280: When did you decide to cook for a living?
RL: I didn’t decide. I think that it was decided for me. I was always into cooking, even when I was little. My mom has a picture of me in front of the Fisher-Price plastic kitchen set, and I would always want to watch Julia Child instead of Sesame Street. All of the men would be watching football and I would be in the kitchen with my mom and grandma cooking. My grandma is from Finland, so I got a lot of Scandinavian culture from her, and my mom is Polish and German, so she had a lot of influence [on my style].
I started washing dishes at 15, and I was really good at washing because the chef would say that once I was finished, I could help in the kitchen. So, I was always really fast and they saw that and started to say: “Why is this kid still washing dishes? Let’s use him in the kitchen.” So at 19, I was managing my own kitchen.
Insider Tip: When the Rockies  are playing at home, check out Trillium’s happy hour deals (5 p.m. to close) on food and drinks.
2134 Larimer St., 303-379-9759
—Photo by Rick Cummings