“I’m a yes guy,” says Chef or Death podcast host Eric Chiappetta. “If you want something from me, I’ll figure out a way to get it to you.” Which is why Chiappetta has found himself pickling and canning and cooking—not to mention driving—almost nonstop since early April, delivering condiments galore for his new business, Minga Provisions.
Chiappetta has been a part of the Denver dining scene for more than three decades, cooking at both high-end and casual spots and owning, over the years, the now-closed 3rd Ave Eclectic Burgers & Cuisine, Larimer Hot House, and Chia’s Breakfast & Lunch Counter. In 2018, he started the Chef or Death podcast to share the stories behind Colorado’s best restaurants, interviewing chefs and restaurateurs about issues facing the hospitality industry; Chiappetta was awarded the 2019 Colorado Restaurant Association Outstanding Media Professional award for his work on the podcast.
But with Chef or Death on a slowdown last month due to the pandemic, Chiappetta changed gears. “I wanted to make Chicago beefs for dinner one night,” he says, “so I made giardiniera (the classic Windy City-style pickled vegetable condiment for that sandwich) to go with them. I don’t know how to cook for one person, so I had extra and I put it out there on social media. I sold out in five minutes.” Indeed, Chiappetta was on to something delicious. Within a matter of days, he’d created Minga Provisions, delivering jars of the spicy chopped vegetable relish to hungry. home-bound Coloradans across the Front Range.
“For 20 straight days, I would pack my car and drive everywhere,” Chiappetta says. He began making more than just giardiniera, too, fine-tuning recipes for garlic-dill pickles and habanero bread and butter pickle chips. Each is beautifully balanced between vinegar tang, sweetness, and chile heat, though the giardiniera, a nearly addicting combination of chopped cauliflower, carrots, fennel, celery, sport peppers, olives, red wine vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil, is the one you won’t be able to live without once you’ve tasted it. It adds just the right crunch and zing to, well, Chicago beefs, but also to burgers, sausages of all kinds, eggs, tacos, and just about any dish you’d consider enhancing with pickles.
To get your hands on a jar or ten, Chiappetta is now offering shipping through the Minga Provisions website, and you can find his wares for sale at Vero in the Denver Central Market and at Il Posto. The habanero bread and butter chips have even been spotted adorning the Royale cheeseburger pizza at Crush Pizza & Tap, a brilliant use for the spicy-sweet toppers.
New products and collaborations are in the works for Minga too, as Chiappetta is partnering with chef Jeff Osaka (12 at Madison, Osaka Ramen, Sushi-Rama, and others) to make a kimchi pickle and producing basil-walnut pesto for Altius Farms’ CSA shareholders.
“These products aren’t a necessity, like toilet paper or water,” Chiappetta says. “They’re a treat, and it’s just fun to have them on hand.” Seeing a local chef and entrepreneur bring something new to the Colorado dining scene during a pandemic is pretty fun, too.