In Breckenridge, there are a handful of restaurants that have stood the test of time. One of those is Relish, an upscale contemporary American restaurant that chef-owner Matt Fackler and his wife Lisa opened in the summer of 2006. But there’s a changing of the guard.

Yesterday, Fackler sat down with his staff to let them know that Relish will be closing its doors on April 13. Matt Vawter, chef-owner of Rootstalk a couple blocks away and formerly of Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver, will take over the location. “I’ve always loved that space,” says Vawter, who grew up in Keystone. “It’s the center of town.”

But there’s more to the story than that. Fackler and Vawter go a long way back—17 years to be exact. When Vawter was finishing up culinary school at Colorado Mountain College Culinary Institute at Keystone, he apprenticed under Fackler, who was then the new chef of the Ski Tip Lodge. The two have stayed in touch ever since, with Fackler often serving as a mentor and sounding board. “There have been so many situations where Matt has helped guide me,” Vawter says. In fact, it was Fackler who encouraged Vawter to leave Summit County and look into working at Fruition shortly after the Denver restaurant opened in 2007. That fateful conversation—one that took place at Relish’s bar—helped make Vawter a star in his own right.

Vawter won’t be keeping Relish’s name or concept; instead he plans to turn the restaurant into a casual Italian spot—something he feels Breckenridge desperately needs. With space updates, menu crafting, and staffing, Vawter aims to open mid-June. “I want to continue the legacy of what Matt has built,” Vawter says. “I want to continue to do what this restaurant has done for the last 16 years, which is provide great food and a gathering place that’s comfortable and fun.” The passing of ownership feels serendipitous to Fackler, “When you meet someone and they’re in an apprentice-style role and then you see them flourishing on their own, it’s full circle,” he says.

As for Fackler, he isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he took over Fatty’s Pizzeria in Breck at the beginning of COVID, and he’ll turn all of his attention there after mid-April. He’s looking forward to a different challenge, which isn’t to say that he won’t miss Relish. “The sauté station in this restaurant—it’s like putting on my favorite t-shirt. This is a space I love,” Fackler says. “I will miss it but it’s time.”