Chris Starkus, the now-former executive chef at Urban Farmer, is known for his commitment to urban agriculture, seasonal cooking, and sustainability. (He started a micro farm on the quarter acre of land next to his Lakewood home and even nurtured a bee colony on the Oxford Hotel’s roof.) Now, Starkus has traded those rooftop hives and steak grilling for a new passion: water conservation and smarter food defrosting. His last day at Urban Farmer was December 10.
“I’ve always pushed sustainability in the restaurant, and so much is about food sourcing,” Starkus says. “I wanted to turn the attention to the back of the house and the waste stream there. I realized I could do something bigger than myself and my own kitchen.”
His new project is Boss Defrost, a patent-pending portable device that aims to conserve fresh water in commercial kitchens by thawing foods more efficiently and economically. Currently, many restaurants run water over frozen food to defrost it—sending 32,000 gallons a month down the drain for the average commercial kitchen. Boss Defrost says it can lower that water waste by up to 98.5 percent, saving the restaurant money on its water bill and saving the rest of us drinkable water.
Starkus first learned about the product from its founder, Mac Marsh, who encouraged him to test it out in the Urban Farmer kitchen. He was skeptical that it would do everything Marsh said it would do, but after a year of using it, he’s a major advocate.
“The kitchen culture changed in two weeks. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s awesome. I really want to be a part of this.’ And I can change the industry culture by not only using it in my kitchen, but also helping other people put it in their kitchens,” Starkus says.
Starkus will be the Colorado-based company’s chief sales officer, and he’s so passionate about the product that Boss Defrost has become a family affair—his wife Diana Lopez Starkus is using her marketing background as chief marketing officer.
“We decided to push in all our chips and work together,” she says. “The seed that this grows from is water conservation. It’s about pivoting an entire industry practice… Nobody looks at this in the back of the house. It’s kind of the skeleton in the restaurant closet.”
As for his work as a chef, Starkus says he’ll probably do some pop-up dinners around town, and he’s not done beekeeping, either. He has five hives at his home farm and he’s finishing up certification to become a Master Beekeeper.
A representative for Urban Farmers says the restaurant will name Starkus’s successor after the holidays.