The fast-growing Punch Bowl Social made a whopper of an announcement this morning: Robert Thompson’s Denver-based “eatertainment” concept has hired celebrity chef Hugh Acheson to take the culinary reins. Acheson signed on as culinary partner about four months ago and has been evaluating and refocusing the menu ever since. The new menu will launch nationwide (there are currently six locations, with eight more on the horizon) on Friday, August 26. This news comes on the heels of Punch Bowl hiring longtime Denver chefs Matt Selby as regional executive chef and Chris Cina as culinary operations director.

Acheson, who is best known as a judge on Top Chef and chef-partner of 5&10 and The National in Athens, Georgia, Empire State South in the Atlanta, and The Florence in Savannah, is an avid proponent of seasonally and locally inspired cuisine. Which might make the Punch Bowl Social deal seem a strange partnership. Not at all. “Robert was looking for somebody to bring focus and…authenticity and the ideas of locality to [Punch Bowl Social],” Acheson says. The two were connected by a mutual friend in the industry.

In fact, what impressed Acheson most about Punch Bowl is that each location runs a scratch kitchen, which means the offerings can—and should—adhere to the seasons and local and regional agriculture. “If we’re going to make progress in the food world, we need to take small steps. Small steps win the race. I can write a generic tomato recipe and when tomato season comes around in Chicago, in Denver, and in Minneapolis there’s impact to buy locally,” Acheson says. “We’re trying to get that authentic seasonality but in a bigger venue.”

The gist of the menu—a wide-range of dishes with southern leanings—will remain the same and most certainly benefit from Acheson’s expertise in southern food. Acheson will also design daily blue plate and green plate (vegetarian) specials. “[Robert and I] have a mutual quest to give [Punch Bowl] some individual nuance and authenticity that’s often missing from large entities,” Acheson says.

65 Broadway, 303-765-2659, and other locations nationwide

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.