Southern Soul

Chef Cool Dre
DeAndre Smith, who cooks and competes professionally under the name Chef Cool Dre, grew up in Denver but learned to appreciate his family’s Texas and Arkansas roots and cuisine from his grandparents. As a child, Smith’s grandfather would patiently let him go through a dozen eggs until he’d learned how to crack and fry them properly, and his grandmother would prepare soul food specialties such as red beans and rice, neck bones, black-eyed peas, and hot-water cornbread. These days, when Smith isn’t working on finishing degrees in communications and nutrition from the University of Northern Colorado (after prestigious invitations to cook at the James Beard Awards reception in 2019 and on ABC’s The Chew in 2018), Smith can be found preparing à la carte Sunday suppers for fellow students and catering private dinners for clients in Fort Collins, Denver, and beyond. Cajun and Vietnamese dishes—and anything from the sea—are his forte, which means that Cajun-style seafood boils, garlic shrimp po’boys, and salt-and-pepper fried lobster may well be on the menu should he cook for you (starting at $90 per person).

Across The Ponds

Chef Jeff G. Stoneking
After leading the stellar kitchens at Sushi Den, ChoLon, and LeRoux and a stint as culinary director for the Bridge & Tunnel Restaurant Group (Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen, Lou’s Italian Specialties, and others), chef Jeff G. Stoneking is now a boss of one—and ready to spoil you silly. Equipped with the professional chops to teach you and your guests or simply treat you to an elegant meal, Stoneking will customize your culinary experience (starting at $100 per person). You’ll fill out a questionnaire about the scope and sophistication of your event and any preferences or restrictions, and he will do the rest, from prepping and cooking to plating and cleanup. Recent menus have included a bo ssam feast with a dumpling demonstration (and next-morning pandan coffee cakes thrown in for delicious measure); roasted salmon with dill beurre blanc and brûléed lemon; and a porchetta roulade with chestnuts and black truffle sauce.

Fit & Fabulous

Chef Biju Thomas
When chef and former competitive cyclist Biju Thomas closed the last of his three Biju’s Little Curry Shop locations in March 2020, he decided to make his work a bit more, well, personal. “Private dinners for small family groups is our specialty,” he says of Mixn Match, the culinary events company he launched shortly thereafter. Thomas will assign you a local chef (or himself) to personalize your next dinner party (starting at $1,500 for two to 10 people), but Mixn Match also holds virtual fundraisers, corporate events, and popular Zoom cook-alongs featuring local partners such as Law’s Whiskey House, Woody Creek Distillers, and area ranches and farms that are part of Alfalfa’s Market’s statewide supply chain. And that’s not all: Drawing on his fitness background, Thomas is happy to accompany outdoor rec enthusiasts to farther-flung locales, welcoming them back to their rental after a day of, say, cycling across Tucson, Arizona, or Kona, Hawaii, with the likes of beef tenderloin with mushrooms and red wine and baklava with wildflower honey and cinnamon cream. If invited, Thomas might even hop on his bike and join you for a ride.

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.