White linen tablecloths. A 4,000-bottle wine cellar. High-end slabs of red meat. These are the things you may well remember from a visit to Shanahan’s Steakhouse, the iconic Denver Tech Center restaurant founded by the eponymous Bronco’s coach. While patrons can still expect to feast on filet mignons and porterhouses with a glass of boutique Bordeaux in polished environs, executive chef Zurisadai Resendiz—who joined the team last August—is shaking up the 12-year-old stalwart’s menu.

The Mexico City native moved to the United States in 2002 and worked in various kitchens before landing at downtown’s Panzano in 2012, where he thrived under the mentorship of Elise Wiggins, then the eatery’s executive chef. When she left to open Central Park’s Cattivella in 2017, Resendiz joined her there as executive sous chef. “It was a great journey, but I wanted to do more than that,” he says. “I was learning from one of the best chefs in Denver, but I didn’t just want it to be there. I’m always super hyper. I always like to learn and innovate—so I looked for some other opportunities.”

Resendiz’s next opportunity arrived when he connected with Shanahan’s managing partner Marc Steron and his team, who tapped him to helm the steakhouse’s kitchen. “I explained to the owners, ‘your food is great, but we can make it way better,’” Resendiz says. “We need to bring some magic to the place.”

While the popular lineup of USDA Prime steaks remains, Resendiz draws on his roots and past culinary experiences to curate inventive appetizers, sides, sauces, and other dishes for the menu. Our favorite creations so far have included: the peanut-dressing-drizzled wagyu rib-eye satay, chunks of umami-packed protein that are marinated for 24 hours in a 14-ingredient marinade; the jumbo crab cake, which is dressed in sweet corn succotash and Creole lobster sauce; and creamed corn with a Mexican twist, a decadent esquites-style side topped with brûléed queso fresco and goat cheese, fresh lemon juice, and paprika.

In addition to making waves in Denver kitchens, Resendiz has also gained national attention on the small screen. He’s competed in three Food Network cooking shows with two stints on Chopped (the latest episode aired last September) and one appearance on Guy’s Grocery Games. He’s currently in talks with two other Food Network shows—but can’t offer any specific details just yet. 

In the meantime, we caught up with Resendiz to chat about what his goals are for Shanahan’s menu, his affinity for preparing whole fish, and why he’d cook for the children of Mexico City.

What are your goals for Shanahan’s?

As executive chief, I want you to come to my restaurant, and if you’re going to be dropping that kind of money, I want you not only to enjoy the food, but I want you to walk out of here with a great dining experience. I want you to remember the environment, the curtains, the music, the silverware, the glassware. And that’s what I’m working on improving [by bringing in new dishware] and working with the front of house and back of house at the same time. I really want foodies to come to my restaurant to try it. And whether it’s once a week or once a month, [I hope] they’ll really be like, “All right, I have to go back to Shanahan’s because it’s the only place they have that dish and it is haunting me.”

Is there anything we can look forward to seeing on the menu at the restaurant in the future?

I want to start featuring some amazing weekly fish specials. My background is Latin but I have cooked Italian for a long time at some of the best places—so I want to incorporate that into Shanahan’s. My favorite fishes are red snapper and Mahi Mahi and I do an amazing whole fish. My wife is Peruvian and my last vacation was to Peru, where I think I ate probably 20 kinds of ceviche, so I came back really inspired. I made a ceviche trio with tuna, king crab, and halibut for a friend who came to see me at the restaurant…I think it’s something I want to [add to the menu] as well.

What is your go-to drink?

Vodka and soda water, sometimes with a splash of lime

If you could cook for three people—living or dead—who would they be?

One would be my dad, who passed away when I was 15 and never saw me cooking. The second will be my [great] grandmother—the mother of my grandma. I come from a household of cooks…they are all girls and all claim to be the best of the best. And they are. It’s a huge, huge inspiration. The third one is a project I really want to do: I want to go back to Mexico City where I came from and cook for all the kids on the street just for fun for free.

Why is cooking for kids back in Mexico City important to you?

I feel like sometimes we take for granted where we started, where we come from—and I want to give back. I feel like if I can change somebody’s life by just doing one action, that will make my life go. It’s like leaving your print on this Earth. That’s it. That’s all I want to do. A lot of people were involved in my life, how I grew up, how I developed. So I want to do the same thing by giving back.