The beloved Daniel Asher is a familiar face on Denver’s culinary scene. Even if you don’t know him by name, you know him by sight: He’s the one with the biggest, friendliest smile and he’s probably the only chef using a vintage spoon to plate the most delicious (usually vegetarian) bite at any event. “I have a weird obsession with estate sale spoons that I use for plating. Inevitably random ones get left at events so I always have a nice supply,” he says.
Asher was drawn to cooking by the age of seven, when he would stand on a step-stool and watch his mother at work. “[My mom] always mesmerized me with not only her tremendous love of people and food, but the authentic joy that always seems to surround her,” he says. It appears Asher picked up more than just technique and a devotion for cooking under his mother’s wing, he also picked up her aura: Ask anyone about Asher as a chef and a human being, and they will describe him in almost the exact same words.
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For Asher, a carefully made meal grew to symbolize more than just food on the table: It symbolized connection. “My Eastern European immigrant father was an intense workaholic,” he says. “The only time I would truly see him pause was to thank my mom for an amazing dinner. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to make that kind of an impact on people through food.”
And he does. He served as culinary director of Edible Beats (Root Down, Linger, Root Down DIA, and Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox) for seven years, before leaving in April 2016 to partner with Josh Dinar on River and Woods in Boulder. Wherever he goes, he finds and builds community.
No doubt it’s the same at Acreage, a collaboration between the Stem Ciders, Kelly Whitaker’s Id Est. Hospitality Group, and Asher, which officially opened in Lafayette on Saturday, February 24. Dishes are cooked over live fire and smoldering embers while diners take in the sweeping panoramic views of the Front Range and, eventually, a full-scale apple orchard, to further instill a profound sense of place. To put it all into perspective—and to borrow from one of Asher’s favorite words—Acreage has the potential to be truly “magical.”
Until you’re able to book a table and try Acreage out for yourself, read on for three more things you likely didn’t know about Daniel Asher:
1. On food waste… Solving food waste has become a deep passion of mine. The fact that as a nation, we discard over a third of what we produce, while we can’t yet figure out how to feed everyone that is hungry, fills me with tremendous sadness.
At Acreage, we take all of our vegetable scraps and herb stems, dry them, and char them over the wood fire. The resultant ash is incorporated into our house vinaigrette.
At River and Woods, we have a small walk-in and fairly efficient waste footprint. We simply don’t have space or budget for food to go to waste. Whenever a random quart of something gets overlooked in the walk-in and I find it in my weekly deep clean, I truly feel heartbroken to [compost] what would have been edible food. But through intelligent use of food scraps being used in sauces and family meals, we do a pretty darn good job.
2. On favorite snacks… Currently it’s Bamba. It’s a delicious puffed peanut butter snack from Israel that finally showed up at Trader Joe’s.
3. On the “salt museum”… Wherever I travel, I always bring home local honey, sea salt, and chocolate. My wife used to give me a lot of grief over the rather overwhelming collection of salts I’ve acquired. I started referring to it as the ‘salt museum’ and now she isn’t allowed to use them or throw them away, because they are ‘artifacts in my collection.’