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This blog kicks off a new series where we’ll dig up three facts that you likely didn’t know about your favorite chef, bartender, somm, cheese monger, cicerone, GM, or industry insider.
St. Louis native Chad Michael George moved to Denver after falling in love with the city in 2011. “We came out for a late-season ski trip but the snow was so bad we went to Denver. It was perfect weather, I was with the perfect people, and we went to all the perfect places: the old Squeaky Bean, Root Down, the Four Seasons, and Linger being built,” he says. George moved out a year later and has been making his mark on the local cocktail scene ever since. After extended stints at Linger and Williams & Graham, sitting as president of the Colorado Bartender’s Guild, and a Best New Mixologists nod from Food & Wine, George opened the Way Back with Kade Gianinetti and Jared Schwartz in March 2016.
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In a little more than a year, this tucked-away West Highland neighborhood bar has inspired fierce loyalty and has become the launch pad for more: In January, the trio debuted burger shop American Grind at Avanti Food & Beverage and, this coming fall, Wayward will open in the former Zengo and La Guerra space in Riverfront Park. “The Way Back is always going to be a small little place on the edge of town,” George says, but Wayward’s 7,000 square feet of prime real estate “gives us a much larger megaphone for responsibly sourced regional cuisine.” Plan for the space to feel brighter and louder than the Way Back, with an emphasis on bar and community seating. In the meantime, read on for three things you didn’t know about George.
1. Although already a talented bartender before landing in Denver, George’s background was in wine—and in trading securities. George worked for Smith Barney and CitiBank and his extensive travel to the West Coast nurtured a love of the wine industry. One night at a bachelor party in Vegas, a conversation about wine led to a casual job offer at the Monarch Hotel in St. Louis. Shortly there after, George left the financial world to become the hotel’s wine director. It was there that George was fortunate the fall under the tutelage of acclaimed bar manager Ted Kilgore. The rest, as they say, is history.
2. “You can’t drag me out of karaoke night with all of your might,” George says. “I love live music and I love to sing.” He gets his fix with Tuesday karaoke nights at Star Bar and a live show at least once a month. The musical genre? Just about anything: indie rock, folk, and oldies-but-goodies like Hall & Oats and Boston. His concert bucket list includes: Daft Punk, Massive Attack, Erlend Oye, and the Rolling Stones.
3. In Saint Louis, George simply went by Chad. But in Denver, his full name has stuck, with most people calling him Chad Michael George or CMG.