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James Beard Award winner Jennifer Jasinski. Photograh by Clayton Vurciaga

Denver Earns a Stop on the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Tour

Celebrate with a pop-up dinner at Rioja in November, and plan ahead for a weekend of food festivities in May 2020.

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Colorado foodies, mark your calendars: The esteemed James Beard Foundation’s Taste America tour is coming to Denver for three days of culinary events in 2020—May 14 to 16—and our city’s best chefs will cook for the Foundation, and you, all weekend long.

The tour visits 20 American cities every year, highlighting each locale’s culinary scene and promoting the importance of chefs as advocates for a more sustainable and equitable world. During its seventh annual year, Taste America will include stops in New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City, and Atlanta, among other culinary hotspots. And while it’s the first time that Denver has made it onto the itinerary, the Beard Foundation has chosen the Mile High City as one of the tour’s premier locales; 10 of the chosen sites typically host a single pop-up dinner, but Denver will throw a weekend’s worth of events and a pop-up in November.

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The Front Range dining scene has certainly been a part of the national culinary conversation more and more in recent years, scoring a Colorado-based season of Top Chef in 2017, hosting Slow Food Nations three years in a row, and earning multiple nods from the Beard Foundation itself. To wit, Alex Seidel (Fruition, Mercantile Dining & Provision) won the award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2018 and Frasca Food and Wine scored the Outstanding Service award this past May, not to mention the many Colorado-based finalists and semifinalists who have earned nominations in the past few years. Perhaps there haven’t been as many accolades as our star chefs deserve, but we’re making real progress.

The Beard Foundation also publicly partnered with Boulder-based Good Food 100 Restaurants earlier this year, building on the shared mission of both organizations to cultivate a more sustainable, inclusive, and accessible food system.

To celebrate all of this impactful collaboration and acknowledgment, Taste America will first arrive in Denver on November 7 for a pop-up dinner at Rioja, starring the Mile High City’s first James Beard Award winner, Jennifer Jasinski. She’ll cook a multi-course dinner for guests with a soon-to-be-announced lineup of fellow local chefs and a star talent from outside the Colorado community. Tickets are $195 per person and can be purchased here.

Then, the big shebang: On May 14, 2020, the Foundation will host a Raising the Bar walk-around tasting reception (location to be announced), featuring a lineup of local and national mixologists and chefs.

On May 15, there will be a gala benefit dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, during which five of Colorado’s star chefs will cook for the welcome reception, and the three-course dinner will be created by another local chef and a “Taste America Visiting All-Star.” The evening’s finale, a dessert reception, will feature three of Denver’s best pastry chefs.

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To wrap up the weekend on May 16, there will be a cooking demonstration by a local chef and programming around the Beard Foundation’s educational endeavors. The tour is also partnering with Food Recovery Network to make sure that every event is “food recovery verified,” with all leftovers going to hunger-fighting nonprofits in each city.

We will report back with more details on these festivities when they’re announced.

Caroline Glover of Annette cooked at the Taste America launch party in New York City. Photo by Clay Williams for the James Beard Foundation

In the meantime, Front Range chefs are already excited about the event and the recognition from the Beard Foundation. Chef-owner Caroline Glover, a semifinalist nominee three times over since Annette opened in 2016, was invited to New York City to cook at the Taste America Kickoff party on July 24, alongside notable chefs including Michael Stoltzfus and Ana Castro (Coquette, New Orleans) and Mei Lin (Nightshade, Los Angeles). “It was an incredible experience,” Glover says. “It was so surreal to see our city represented with all these other places known for their food scenes. I’m super excited for the tour to come to Denver; it’ll shine a light on some really great things happening in our food community.”

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