Chef Kodi Simkins is no stranger to the open kitchen at Beckon, the high-end, 18-seat chef’s-counter restaurant located in a renovated tiny house on Larimer Street in RiNo. She was on hand when chef Duncan Holmes and director of experience Allison Anderson opened the compact spot in 2018, and, after serving as chef de cuisine at the Wolf’s Tailor and working for a spell at River Bear American Meats, Simkins has been cooking part time with Holmes since July 2020. Which is why it makes so much sense that about a month ago, Simkins took over Beckon’s kitchen as its new chef de cuisine.
Holmes and Anderson let owner Craig Lieberman know that they were moving on from Beckon to open their own restaurant (in Colorado, thank goodness) at the end of last year, and with Simkins already on hand it was a no brainer to bring her on full-time. “We didn’t have to look too far,” says Lieberman, “because we had the perfect person right here.” Holmes and Anderson agree that Simkins is an asset to the restaurant. “She’s a good fit because, of course, we like her, but she’s also very talented and motivated. She has all the right things,” says Holmes.
Don’t expect the cuisine at Beckon to change too much under Simkins’ leadership. From Lieberman to Holmes to Simkins, everyone agrees that her cooking is incredibly similar to Holmes’ refined seasonal approach. “He’s been my mentor for so many years,” Simkins says, “that I don’t think our cooking is that crazy different. In the tasting I did for [Lieberman], he said it was just like Duncan’s food, which I take as a compliment.”
Simkins will draw on the purveyor relationships Beckon already has in place, but also the connections she’s developed throughout her Colorado career, which includes time at Frasca Food and Wine and Fruition Restaurant. It all adds up to buying fresh bass, for example, that’s farm-raised in Alamosa and working with the Santa Barbara Fish Company. “I know the name of the captain and the boat that caught the cod we’re using right now,” she says. “At Beckon, the story behind the food has to come forward, so finding sources like that is important.”
You can hear the thrill in Simkins’ voice when she talks about her new role at Beckon. “I love what I got to do at Wolf’s, but now, being in an environment where I’m allowed to cook what I want to cook is extremely exciting for me,” she says. “And to be able to focus on the food and taking care of my staff, that’s a huge opportunity.” She also verbally glows when speaking about the Beckon kitchen crew, which includes cooks Andres Sermersheim, Ian Gordon, and Malinda Masing, as well as sous chef Andrew Zubia. “They’re the best,” says Simkins. “Everyone contributes to the menu and they’re all killing it.”
There’s another new face on the floor at Beckon: general manager Justin Abad, an award-winning hospitality pro who comes from years spent owning and running renowned restaurants in Washington, D.C., including Cashion’s Eat Place, Pop’s SeaBar, and Rare Steakhouse & Tavern. Having fallen for Colorado during a stint as manager of Vail’s Sweet Basil back in 2018, Abad moved to Denver during the fall of 2019, managing the front-of-house team at the Kitchen until the pandemic hit last year. Lieberman is happy to have Abad’s operational experience on hand as Beckon transitions back to indoor dining sometime this summer, and as the team prepares the former Call space next door to Beckon for its next iteration.
For Abad, managing a staff of 10 at Beckon is a welcome change after working for so long with larger teams. “I don’t think my quality of life has ever been so good,” he says. “I can take my experience and make everyone’s life a bit easier at Beckon. Allison and Duncan created such a special place with such a special staff, my goal is to be a facilitator. Hosting people brings me joy and in an environment like Beckon, it’s a dream come true.”
2843 Larimer St., 303-749-0020