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Fifteen years ago this month, you chose to open Vesta downtown. Now it looks like a brilliant move, but back then there couldn’t have been much going on.
The only places—aside from Wazee Supper Club and McCormick’s Fish House & Bar—were Sports Column, Jackson’s, and the Wynkoop. Jax Fish House was on its way. There was talk of the Pepsi Center. The kicker was Stadium Walk [a failed Denver Pavilions–type project owned by Arnold Schwarzenegger] with Planet Hollywood, a movie theater, and shops, that was supposed to go in right across the street [from the Vesta space]. If I had known what I was doing, I would have bought a building.
Did you have any idea Vesta would be so successful?
Absolutely not. I was 26 years old, and I was young and dumb. The original concept was skewers and sauces. I thought I could pull that off without a chef—with more of a kitchen manager. Two months in, I promoted Matty [Selby] from sous chef to executive chef. He was 23.
How has the restaurant changed?
The concept has evolved from skewers to fork-and-knife entrées. We’re still making a lot of changes. We won’t get rid of all the sauces—we can’t—but we don’t need to have 35.
Do you consider yourself a LoDo pioneer?
No. When you’re looking for real estate it makes sense to look in areas that aren’t the hottest places in town. I like finding neighborhoods and buildings that exist already and seeing them come back to life.
After Ace, your eatery/ping-pong hall, opens later this summer, what’s next?
One restaurant at a time. But things present themselves all the time and we look at them. I still think Denver needs a good Jewish deli.
Vesta Dipping Grill, 1822 Blake St., 303-296-1970, vestagrill.com